Facts of Brown v. Board of Education:
African-American children in Topeka, Kansas were denied access to all-white schools due to rules allowing for separate but equal facilities. The idea of separate but equal was given legal standing with the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. This doctrine required that any separate facilities had to be of equal quality. However, the plaintiffs in this case argued that segregation was inherently unequal.
Significance of Brown v. Board of Education:
The Brown decision was truly significant because it overturned the separate but equal doctrine established by the Plessy decision. While previously the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution was interpreted so that equality before the law could be met through segregated facilities, with Brown this was no longer true. The fourteenth amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, and the Court ruled that separate facilities based on race were ipso facto unequal.
One piece of evidence that greatly influenced the Supreme Court decision was research performed by two educational psychologists: Kenneth and Mamie Clark. They presented children as young as three with white and brown dolls. They found that overall the children rejected the brown dolls when asked to pick which they liked the best, wanted to play with, and thought were a nice color. This underlined the inherent inequality of a separate educational system based on race.