This case consolidates several different cases from Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, and Virginia. Several black children sought, through legal representation, admission to public schools that allowed or required racial segregation. The plaintiffs alleged that racial segregation was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
A three-judge federal district court denied the plaintiffs relief under the “separate but equal” doctrine in all but one case, citing Plessy v. Ferguson. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that segregated schools were not equal and could not be made equal and that the plaintiffs were therefore deprived of equal protection of the laws.
Is the racial segregation of children into “separate but equal” public schools constitutional?
No. The racial segregation of children into “separate but equal” public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional.
Racial segregation of children in the public schools denies black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, regardless of whether the physical and other facilities may be equal. A public school education is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.
The question presented in these cases must be determined in the light of the role of public education in American life today, not on the basis of the conditions under which the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. The “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, which applied to transportation, is out of place in public education.
Racially separating black children from other children causes feelings of inferiority in black children in terms of their status in the community that may irreversibly affect their hearts and minds. This sense of inferiority negatively impacts black children’s motivation to learn. The impact of segregation is greater when sanctioned by law. It tends to impede the education and mental development of said children and deprives them of some of the benefits of an integrated school system. As this finding is amply supported by modern psychology any verbiage to the contrary in Plessy v. Ferguson is hereby rejected.
Consenting and Dissenting Opinions