On May 17, 1954, a decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education case declared the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional. This landmark ruling gave LDF its most celebrated victory in a long, storied history of fighting for civil rights and marked a defining moment in US history. The decision in Brown v. Board remains a defining moment in U.S. history.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education occurred after a hard-fought, multi-year campaign to persuade all nine justices to overturn the “separate but equal” doctrine that their predecessors had endorsed in the Court’s infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. This campaign was conceived in the 1930s by Charles Hamilton Houston, then Dean of Howard Law School, and brilliantly executed in a series of cases over the next two decades by his star pupil, Thurgood Marshall–the man who became Legal Defense Fund’s first Director-Counsel and a Supreme Court Justice.
Brown itself was not a single case, but rather a coordinated group of five lawsuits against school districts in Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.