Brown v. Board of Education (1954), now acknowledged as one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century, unanimously held that the racial segregation of children in public schools violated theEqual Protection Clauseof the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the decision did not succeed in fully desegregating public education in the United States, it put the Constitution on the side of racial equality and galvanized the nascent civil rights movement into a full revolution.
In 1954, large portions of the United States had racially segregated schools, made legal byPlessy v. Ferguson (1896), which held that segregated public facilities were constitutional so long as the black and white facilities were equal to each other. However, by the mid-twentieth century, civil rights groups set up legal and political, challenges to racial segregation. In the early 1950s, NAACP lawyers brought class action lawsuits on behalf of black schoolchildren and their families in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware, seeking court orders to compel school districts to let black students attend white public schools.
Hedgepeth-Williams v. Board of Education
Hedgepeth-Williams v. Board of Education, Trenton, NJ (1944),is a benchmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision in the desegregation of Trenton Public Schools. The New Jersey Supreme Courtupheld theNew Jersey School Law of 1881by declaring that local school districts and boards of education could not establish separate public schools based on race, color or creed. Under theNew Jersey State Constitution of 1844, the majority of funding for education comes from the state and includes the guarantee of a "thorough and efficient" education; a uniform property tax was collected by the state, and redistributed to local school districts on an equal, per-pupil basis for all children between the ages of five and eighteen years old.