Education

Collective Action

By Ann Bradley — January 21, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Briggs v. Elliott, the lawsuit filed in Clarendon County, S.C., was one of four cases that became known collectively as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

The U.S. Supreme Court consolidated the cases in 1952, when it agreed to hear appeals in each of them and in a fifth case against segregation in the District of Columbia schools. Lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, under future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, led the legal fight.

The Brown lawsuit challenged the Topeka, Kan., board of education’s decision to establish segregated elementary schools under a state law that permitted, but did not require, cities of 15,000 residents or more to maintain separate school facilities for black and white children. The other public schools in the community weren’t segregated, notes the author Richard Kluger in the 1977 book Simple Justice, a definitive account of the case.

A three-judge federal panel in the Kansas case found that segregation had a detrimental affect on black children. But it denied relief to the plaintiffs—including Oliver Brown, suing on behalf of his daughter Linda—because it found that schools for blacks and whites were substantially equal in their buildings, transportation, curricula, and teachers’ educational levels. The ruling was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Virginia case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, involved a challenge by black high school students to the state’s required segregation in public schools.

As was true in the South Carolina case, a federal court found that the physical facilities for black students were inferior and ordered them to be made equal to those for white children. But the court denied black students access to whites-only schools while the problems were addressed. Both courts also turned back the plaintiffs’ challenges to the underlying constitutionality of segregated schools.

The fourth case was Gebhart v. Belton, brought by black children in New Castle County, Del. A state court ordered that black students be admitted to the all-white schools, and the state supreme court affirmed the ruling. State officials appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The District of Columbia case, Bolling v. Sharpe, challenged segregation under the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, rather than under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment as the other cases had done. (That approach stemmed from Washington’s status as a federal city, not a state.)

But as the Supreme Court declared in its unanimous opinion in that fifth case, also handed down on May 17, 1954: “Discrimination may be so unjustifiable as to be violative of due process.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2004 edition of Education Week as Collective Action

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education School Bus Driver Retires After 48 Years Behind Wheel
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick sat behind the wheel for the final time last week, wrapping up a 48-year career for the district.
3 min read
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick poses with one of her farewell signs. Flick has been driving for Charles City School District for 48 years.
Betty Flick quickly fell in love with the job and with the kids, which is what has had her stay in the district for this long.
Courtesy of Abby Koch/Globe Gazette
Education Briefly Stated: December 1, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read