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Bolling v. Sharpe

Separate Can Never Be Equal

In Brown, the Court ruled that segregation in the public schools deprived black children of "equal protection of the law." It thus violated one of the guarantees in the Fourteenth Amendment: "No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Some 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Court allowed states to provide "separate but equal" facilities for different races. Reversing Plessy, the Court declared in Brown that segregation was inherently unequal.

Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Warren maintained that even if the "physical facilities and other `tangible' factors are equal," segregation is psychologically harmful. It generates in black children a "feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."

In Bolling v. Sharpe, issued the same day as the Brown decision, the Court applied the same reasoning to schools in the District of Columbia. Chief Justice Warren, again writing for the unanimous court, was determined to end segregation in the District of Columbia. "In view of our decision that the Constitution prohibits the states from maintaining racially segregated public schools, it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a lesser duty on the Federal Government."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Bolling v. Sharpe - Significance, Separate Can Never Be Equal, "due Process" Requires "equal Protection", Further Readings