The Case that Changed America Six of the Women Behind Brown v. Board of Education Learn More About Brown v. Board Throughout LDF’s history, women
May 17, 1954, the day the decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case was issued, marks a defining moment in the history of the United States. The Supreme Court declared the doctrine of “separate but equal” unconstitutional and gave LDF the most celebrated victory in the organization’s storied history of fighting for civil rights.
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.