Brown v. Board of education The general legal problem



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Brown v. Board of education


  1. The general legal problem.

The application of the 14th amendment on the public school issue.




  1. Vocabulary.




  • Racial segregation : this is a segregation organised between race groups.

  • Equality of treatment: this is what the 14th amendment guaranties, an equal protection under the laws.

  • Minority group: this is a group which belong to the minority. Minority groups can have a feeling of inferiority toward the society.

  • Public schools: schools intended for all.




  1. The parties.







  1. The material facts




  • Minors of the Negro race seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community but on a non segregated basis.

  • They had been denied admission to schools by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race.

  • Minors of the Negro race claim the equal protection of the laws under the 14th amendment but a 3 judge federal district court denied the plaintiffs of their demand on the so called “separate but equal”.




  1. The parties' arguments




  • The plaintiffs’ claims : They contend that segregated public schools are not « equal » and cannot’ be made « equal », and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws.

  • The defendants’ counter claims: They contend that segregated public grant the equal educational opportunities to the minors of the Negro race




  1. The problem at law

Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other « tangible » factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?




  1. The decision

The US supreme court reverse the decision of the three-judge federal district court.

It reverse the case Plessy v. Ferguson.



  1. The ratio decidendi

In the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place.

Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.

The decision of the federal court deprive of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th amendment.



This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the due process clause of the 14th amendment.


  1. Commentary




  1. The dismissal of the doctrine “separate but equal”




  1. The doctrine “separate but equal”

  2. The calling into question of the equal educational opportunities in public schools




  1. The affirmation of the equal protection of the laws

  1. The equal protection clause

  2. The claim of a good citizenship




  1. Question of case




  • What is the precedent contrary case?

  • Why the doctrine “separate but equal” is contrary to the 14th amendment?

  • Do you think that the end of the doctrine separate but equal has really stopped the discrimination and granted the equal educational opportunities?





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