Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (5/17/1954),was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students and denying black children equal educational opportunities unconstitutional. The decision overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court‘s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This victory paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement. (

Chief Justice Earl Warren read two opinions that put the stamp of unconstitutionality on school systems in twenty-one states and the District of Columbia where segregation is permissive or mandatory. The court, taking cognizance of the problems involved in the integration of the school systems concerned, put over until the next term, beginning October, the formulation of decrees to effectuate its 9-to-0 decision. The opinions set aside the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine laid down by the Supreme Court in 1896. “In the field of public education,” Chief Justice Warren said, “the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

He stated the question and supplied the answer as follows:

“We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.”