Of the many civil rights battles of the 1900s, none was more vital than overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. This was the primary legal aim of a new civil rights organization founded in 1909 – the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – which embarked upon a strategy of first integrating educational institutions. After winning cases involving graduate education in the 1940s, the NAACP legal team – led by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall – challenged segregated public school systems, alleging that such separate schooling was not equal.
On May 17, 1954, a unanimous Court agreed, ruling that “in the field of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The Brown decision was both a culmination and starting point in the civil rights struggle: while the ruling marked the demise of the “separate but equal” doctrine, many more changes remained if America was to realize the promise of Brown.
This animated video is part of the Virtual Museum of Law, presented by the State Bar of Georgia’s Law-Related Education Program and funded by the Cornerstones of Freedom® program. Learn more at
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