Brown v. Board at 70

A Year of Celebrating the Case that Transformed America

In honor of the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education on May 17 2024, LDF is hosting a series of events to reflect on the legacy of Brown and the future of education equity.

Celebrating Brown's Legacy and Envisioning Our Future

2024 marks 70 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional and marking a new standard for American education. This victory was the product of a multi-year campaign led by LDF’s visionary attorneys and brave students and families to defy the status quo and envision a better, more just America.  Brown v. Board was a defining moment for our country and its future. Now, at 70 years past, we celebrate Brown’s incalculable legacy and continue the transformative work to make education accessible and equitable for all.  

Every day, we continue to reignite Brown’s promise through a shared goal to realize its transformative vision. Reigniting and realizing Brown’s promise requires continued action. As we face threats to truthful, inclusive education, attacks on diversity, and the dismantling of race-conscious admissions programs, we must act diligently to carry forth Brown’s true intent to advance equal educational opportunities. Brown gave way to opportunity and promise. Brown was just the beginning.   

In the courts and in the streets, we must continue this fight.  

We are at a juncture where our courage to challenge discrimination and counteract disinformation will decide the continued fate and future of our multi-racial democracy.  We must continue to dare. We must continue to dream. We must dare to create a brighter, more inclusive future.   

Recent Events

With All Deliberate Speed: The Past, Present, and Future of Racial Equity in Schools

Thu, Apr 4, 2024
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM (EDT)
Low Memorial Library, Columbia University, New York, NY

The Legal Defense FundBrown’s Promise, and Columbia Law School celebrated the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education – a landmark Supreme Court case that compelled our country to reckon with its history and confront the unfulfilled promise of equality. To mark this anniversary and move us closer to fulfilling the promise of Brown, we convened for a conversation with students, advocates, educators, organizers, and leaders committed to this work. Watch the discussion here.

Upcoming Events

36th Annual National Equal Justice Awards Dinner

Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

May 16, 2024
The Glass House
New York, NY

The National Equal Justice Awards Dinner (NEJAD), LDF’s signature annual fundraising event, is gathering of 700 leaders in law, business, and philanthropy to recognize and honor those who have demonstrated a commitment to the promotion of racial justice and equality. This year’s NEJAD will be held on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at The Glasshouse in New York City.

Brown v. Board of Education

The Case that Transformed America

On May 17, 1954, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case declared the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional. The landmark Brown v. Board decision gave the Legal Defense Fund its most celebrated victory in a long, storied history of fighting for civil rights and marked a defining moment in US history. 

The legal victory in Brown did not transform the country overnight, and much work remains seven decades later. But striking down segregation in the nation’s public schools provided a major catalyst for the civil rights movement, making possible advances in desegregating housing, public accommodations, and institutions of higher education.  

We chronicle the history of Brown, key players, and how Brown shaped our nation.

Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie sit on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the court's ruling in Brown vs. Board. (Photo via Getty)

Brown v. Board and the Significance of the Doll Test

The Brown team relied on the testimonies and research of social scientists throughout their legal strategy. In the 1940s, pioneering psychologists Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on Black children.

The Girls Who Shaped Brown v. Board

The Untold Stories and the Sacrifices that Made Today's Fight for Educational Equity Possible

Black women and girls were the voices behind the school desegregation movement since the beginning, but have often been relegated to the footnotes of history. In the Kansas case that became Brown v. Board, all but one of the plaintiffs were women. 

The Southern Manifesto and "Massive Resistance" to Brown v. Board

Immediately after the Supreme Court issued its decision in Brown, Southern white political leaders condemned it and vowed to defy it. In the face of this fierce and ongoing resistance, LDF sued hundreds of school districts across the country to vindicate the promise of Brown. It was not until LDF’s later victories in Green v. County School Board (1968) and Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg (1971) that the Supreme Court issued mandates that segregation be dismantled “root and branch.”

Meet the Legal Minds Behind Brown v. Board

To litigate Brown v. Board, LDF founder and our first President and Director-Counsel Thurgood Marshall assembled a team of visionary legal minds who conceived, developed and executed the plan to dismantle “separate but equal” in American life. These lawyers included Robert Carter, Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley, Spottswood Robinson, Oliver Hill, Louis Redding, Charles and John Scott, Harold R. Boulware, James Nabrit, and George E.C. Hayes. They were assisted by by legal scholars, social scientists, and community organizers.

Past Events

Celebrating the 69th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and 100th Anniversary of James Nabrit's Graduation from Morehouse College Panel Discussion

May 17, 2023
Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA

Celebrating the 68th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Panel Discussion

May 17, 2022
Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA

The Intergenerational Power of Student Activism

Celebrating the 67th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Panel Discussion

May 17, 2021

LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson facilitated a conversation between civil rights activist Leona Tate and student-led grassroots organization Teens Take Charge. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona delivered the panel’s opening remarks, and actress and change maker Yara Shahidi closed the program by introducing the inaugural cohort of the Marshall Motley Scholars Program

From Brown II to Today

A Conversation on the Legacy of Brown ii with Sherrilyn Ifill and Nikole Hannah-Jones

May 21, 2020

Former LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill and Pulitzer Prize winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones discuss the consequences of segregated education, how the 1965 Brown II decision derailed the promise of Brown I, the ongoing policies and practices that perpetuate separate and unequal education, and recent successes in the fight for educational equity.

"To truly honor Brown, it is our obligation to continue the work, not only by confronting the many ways our schools have once again become separate by race and class, but also by addressing the many ways our country today is reneging on its foundational promise of granting every individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

- Janai Nelson

LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson in front of the U.S. Supreme Court before oral argument in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP on Oct. 11, 2023. (photo by Allison Shelley for LDF)

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