Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for Black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation in public education.
On May 17, 1954, the Warren Court unanimously determined that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” ruling that “de jure” racial segregation was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling opened the door for integration, serving as a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, the Court failed to identify a method for ending racial segregation in schools, only ordering states to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”
Earlier this week, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, released a statement to mark the anniversary of the landmark decision:
“Sixty-two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional. Its Brown v. Board of Education ruling underscored what people of color in communities already knew — that racially segregated, or separate, schools were definitely not equal. The ruling opened doors of opportunity for low-income, minority students that resonate to this day.
“In an ideal world, a good public school education is the great equalizer that enables children of all races from any zip code to achieve both professional and personal success. In the real world, however, children who are poor and Black or Hispanic are still receiving woefully unequal educations in largely racially segregated schools.
“According to a just-released report from the Government Accountability Office, the percentage of K-12 public schools with a majority of students who are poor and Black or Hispanic grew from 9 to 16 percent between the 2000-01 and 2013-14 academic years. In addition, 75 to 100 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — a common indicator of poverty. The schools are also far less likely to offer adequate math and science courses or college preparatory and advanced placement classes, and more likely to suspend or expel students and use exclusionary discipline.
“It is the duty of leaders in our communities and all branches of government to do all that we can to close these persistent gaps in equality and make good on the promise of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education.”