Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was the U.S. Supreme Court’s name for a series of lower-court cases that were heard at the same time by the high court, which eventually overturned its own 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson—which held that “separate but equal” (aka segregated) public facilities were legal.
On May 17, 1954, the court found—unanimously—that the practice of racial segregation in schools violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Arguing for the plaintiffs were NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawyers, among whom was future first black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
The ruling changed some things—and didn’t change others—in the intervening years. Here are 10 developments—five positive, five negative—since Brown.
1. Good: The End of Legal Segregation
Brown v. Board of Education overturned the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision and outlawed segregation in public schools—paving the way for the eventual elimination of de jure segregation in public facilities.
2. Bad: The Always Transforming and Insidious Nature of Racism
It was one thing to fight racism when it came in the form of a Ku Klux Klan uniform, a nightstick or a fireman’s hose. It’s another to shadowbox a mutated racism that now cries “urban” instead of the n-word and swears it’s not racist because it has a “black friend.” It’s not that racism ever goes away, no matter what the Supreme Court rules—it’s that racism is a game that keeps changing.
3. Good: More Black College Graduates