Brown v. Board of Education and School Desegregation: An Analysis of Selected Litigation


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Virginia Tech


Brown is often regarded among the most monumental decisions ever rendered by the United States Supreme Court. Its legacy includes a body of case law affecting the shape and meaning of school desegregation over the past fifty years. However, school desegregation and the transition of Brown from courtroom jurisprudence to a manifestation of equal educational opportunities for African American and other minority students has not been characterized by steady, forward progress. This research project is about Brown’s evolutionary transition vis-à-vis public school desegregation law. A comprehensive overview of the Brown v. Board of Education litigation and its affect on school desegregation is provided. The timeframe for the study primarily covers the years following the Brown decisions from 1954 to 2002. However, the study also emphasizes the legal and historical details that led to Brown. In addition, a review is included of the June 2003 United States Supreme Court decisions in the University of Michigan cases that addressed affirmative action issues, which is relative to Brown.

The body of case law and information associated with Brown was immense. Therefore, specific litigation was selected for review and analysis. The basis for litigation selection is discussed in each chapter relative to the section’s content. The litigation analysis is addressed from four perspectives: the Historical Perspective: "Separate-But-Equal" Era, the Brown Decisions, the Seminal Desegregation Era, and the Contemporary Desegregation Era. Since the research was so extensive, it is beyond the study’s scope to exhaust all avenues of school desegregation case law in Brown’s progeny.

Brown offered the promise and hope of better educational opportunities for African American children in the United States. In the face of contemporary measures that consistently show achievement for African American children lagging behind that of their white and Asian counterparts, this project was motivated by a desire to explore the course of action, from a legal perspective, that resulted in unfulfilled expectations of Brown.



Race-Conscious, Affirmative Action, Segregated Schools, School Law, School Desegregation, School Desegregation Case Law