born en naturalized in the I nited States.
Their opponents, just as certainlv. were
antagonistic to both the letter and the
spirit of the amendments and wished
them to have the most limited effect.
\\ heel nthers in Cnngress and the state
legislatures had in mind cannot he determined with any degree of certainty.
\n additional reason fnr the inconclusive nature of the Amendment's history,
with respect to segregated schools, is the
status uf puhlie education eit that lime.'
In the Smith, the movement toward free
common schools, supported by general
taxation, had nut yet taken hold. Education nf white children was largely in
the hands uf private groups. Education
..f Negroes was almost nonexistent, and
practically all nf the race were illiterate.
In facl. anv education ol Negroes was
forbidden by law in some states. Today,
in contrast, many Negroes have' achieved
outstanding success in the arts ami sciences as well as in the business and
professional world, li i- true that public
education heul already advanced further
in the North, hut the effect of the Amendment on Northern Male- was generally
ignored in the congressional debates.
Even in the North, the conditions of
public education did not approximate
those existing today. The curriculum was
usually rudimentary : ungraded -. Ikh.I-
were common in rural areas: the school
term vvas hut three months a year in
many states; and compulsory school attendance weis virtual]) unknown. As a
consequence, it is not surprising that
there should be so little in the history of
the Fourteenth Amendment relating to
its intended effect on public education.
In the first cases in this Court construing tlie Fourteenth Amendment, decided
short!) after its adoption, the Court interpreted il as proscribing all state-imposed discriminations against the Negro
race.5 The doctrine of '"separate but
equal" did not make its appearance in
this Courl until 1896 in the case of Pless)
v. Ferguson, supra, involving not education but transportation.' Vmerican courts
have since labored with the doctrine for
over half a century. In this Courl. there
hav.- been six cases involving lhe "separate bul equal" doctrine in the field of
puhlie' education.' In dimming v. ( oui
tv Board "1 Education, 1 75 [ . S. 528,
and Gong Lum v. Rice, 27") 1 . S. 78. the
validity of the doctrine itself was nol
challenged.3 In more recent cases, all on
the graduate school level, inequalit) was
found in that specific benefits enjoyed
b) white students were denied to Negro
students of the same educational qualifications. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Can-
ada, 305 I . S. 337; Sipuel v. Oklahoma,
332 I . S. 631 : Sweat! v. Painter. 339
I . S. 629; \l. l.aurin v. Oklah a State
lifgeuts. 339 I . S. 637. In none of these
cases wa- il necessary to reexamine tin-
doctrine lu grant relief to the Negro
plaintiff. And in Sweat! v. Painter, supra.
the (aunt expressl) reserved decision on
the question whether I'lessv v. Ferguson
should be held inapplicable to public education.
In the instant cases, thai question is
directly presented. Here, unlike Sweatl
v. Painler. 11 it - r< - arc findings below that
the Negro and while schools inv.lv.-.1
have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula.
qualifications and salaries of teachers,
and other "tangible' factors." Our deci-
-ieen. therefore, cannol lurn een merely
a comparison of these tangible factors
in Ihe Negro and while schools involved
in each ul the cases. \\ (> must look instead to the effect ')f segregation itself
on public education.
In approaching ibis problem, we can
mil turn the clock back to 1868 when
the Amendment was adopted, or even to
1896 when Pless) v. Ferguson weis written. We musl consider public education
in the light uf ils full development and
ii- presenl place in American life
throughout the nation. Only in this way
can it he determined if segregation in
public schools deprives these plaintiffs
of the equal protection of the laws.
Today, education is perhaps the most
important function of st;it,. ;iriel local governments. Compulsory school attendance
laws and Ihe greal expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition
..I the importance of education to our
democratic society. It is required in llie
performance of our most basic puhlie responsibilities, even service in the armed
forces. It is the very foundation ol good
citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later
professional training, and in helping
him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it Is doubtful thai
any child may reasonably be expected to
succeed in life if he is denied the oppor-
ttinitv ol an education. Such an opportunity, where the state ha- undertaken
to provide it. i- a right which musl I"'
made available to all on equal terms.
We come then to the question presented: Does segregation ol children in
public schools -e.l.'lv on the basis of race,
even though the physical facilities and
other "tangible ' factors mav be equal,
deprive the children of the minority
group ..I equal cilucalioneil opportunities? \\ e believe thai it does.
In Sweat) v. Painter, supra, in finding
that a segregated law school for Negroes
could nut provide them equal educational
opportunities, this Courl relied in large'
part on "those qualities which are in
capable of objective measurement bul
which make for greatness in a law
school." In Mel.emi in v. Oklahoma Steele
Regents, supra, the Court, in requiring
thai a \ igrn admitted to a «hite
graduate school be treated like all oilier
-tiident-. again resorted to intangible
considerations: ". . . his ability to stmlv.
to engage in discussions and exchange
views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession." Such considerations apply with added force to
children in grade and high schools. To
separate them frnm others of similar age
and qualifications solely because of their
race generates a feeling of inferiority
as to their status in the community thai
may affect their hearts and minds in a
way unlikely ever lu be undone. Tbe effect of this separation on their educational opportunities was well steili'el hv ei
finding in the Kansas case by a court
which nevertheless fell compelled tu rule
against the Negro plaintiffs:
"Segregation of while and colored
children in public schools ha- ;t detrimental effect upon the colored
children. The impacl is greater
when il has lhe sanction ol the law :
for lhe policy of separating the races
is usually interpreted as denoting
the inferiority of the Negro group.
\ sense of inferiority affects the
motivation ■■! ei child In learn. Segregation with the sanction of law.
therefore, heis a tendency to retard
the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them nf sunn' of the benefits
they would receive in a racially in-
ti'graii'il school system."10
Whatever may have been the extent
"I psychological knowledge at the time
of Pless) v. Ferguson, this finding is
amply supported by modern authority."
.Any language in I'lessv v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected.
We conclude lhat in the field of public
education the doctrine of "separate but
equal" has no place. Separate educational
facilities arc inherently unequal. There
fore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others
similar!) situated for whom the actions
have been brought arc bv reason of tl"'
segregation complained of, deprived ol
the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This
disposition makes unnecessary emv di--
cussion whether such segregation also
violates the Due Process Clause "f the
Because these are class actions, because ol the wide applicability of thi*
decision, and because of the grceit variety
of local conditions, the formulation "I
decrees in these eases presents problems
ol considerable complexity. On reargu-
ineut. the consideration of appropriate
relief was necessarily subordinated to the
primary question the constitutionalit)
ol segregation in public education. W"
have now announced thai such segregation i- a denial "I the equal protection
of the laws." . . . ll is so ordered.
'[EDITOR'S NOTE; The Supreme Court
eeplie'lel tlii- decision thai segregation in pubh'
Bchools i- mi' i.l.-lilllli.ilieil l.v eiel'llli.inell ..[""
ee.ti- rendered in Meev eee..I October, 1954, eil'1"1
furthei arguments Meae- presented <>n ila-'
eiml related cases. I
FACTS FORUM NEWS, Septembi