Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise Image Strip of Linda Brown walking to school, girl taking test at desk, Nettie Hunt and daughter with newspaper headline on steps of Supreme Court, present day children raising hands, children at computers
Long Road to Brown
Full History
Video Clips
Cases & Lawyers
The Decision
Photo Gallery
Fact Sheet
Long Road Ahead
About the Film
Community Discussion
For Educators
Check local listings
Buy the dvd or video
The History of Brown v. Board of Education Cases and Lawyers
Thurgood Marshall | Oliver W. Hill | Charles Hamilton Houston | Spottswood W. Robinson III | The 5 Cases | Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court text | 14th Amendment text

Five CasesThe 5 Cases leading up to Brown
The following five cases were aggregated at the Supreme Court under the name Brown v. Board of Education:

Clarendon County, South Carolina — Briggs v. Elliot: Began in 1947 when Reverend Joseph Albert DeLaine wanted free bus transportation for his three children. Initially targeting equality and not integration, Marshall visited and in 1949, 20 plaintiffs demanded equal treatment across the board in transportation, buildings, teachers' salaries and educational materials. The case was named Briggs after the first plaintiff in alphabetical order and Elliot was the chairman of the school district. There were 47 black students in a class, to 28 white. There were no bathrooms or electricity at the black schools. Two first-graders walked five miles each way to school.

Prince Edward County, VA: 450 students at Robert R. Moton High School, led by Barbara Johns, a 16 year old junior, went on strike on April 23, 1951. Johns led the group in a desegregation effort, which sprang from the desire of a new school for blacks. The students called in the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and lawyers Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson III, black graduates of Howard Law School, came to Farmville, VA to meet with them. On May 23, a month after Johns called the strike, the lawyers filed suit.

District of Columbia — Bolling v. Sharpe: Gardner Bishop wanted his daughter to be able to go to a nearby white junior high that had hundreds of openings. Instead, she had to attend an overcrowded black school far away from her home. Black parents grew so angry by 1948 that they supported a strike demanding equal facilities for black children. Charles Houston, Marshalls' mentor, brought suit for Bishop, and in early 1951 the suit was refiled to include multiple plaintiffs. The new suit said nothing about equalizing schools — reflecting the new strategy of the NAACP to attack segregation itself.

Wilmington, Delaware: The case in Delaware was brought by parent Sarah Bulah, whose daughter Shirley was not provided a school bus but instead had to be driven to a one-room schoolhouse miles away. Louis Redding, a 1923 graduate of Brown University and graduate of Harvard Law School took on the Delaware case, as did NAACP attorney Jack Greenberg. In 1952 the court ruled that Shirley Bulah and ten other black children were entitled to immediate admission to the white schools in their communities. The court maintained that segregation was illegal as practiced, but did not go so far as to say that racial segregation was Unconstitutional.

Topeka Kansas: Linda Brown, a seven-year-old third grader, walked six blocks to catch the school bus to be driven to her segregated school even though there was a school seven blocks from her home. In Topeka, the segregated black schools were nearly equal to white schools, and public transportation was offered to all children who lived a certain distance from school. This made Topeka the ideal test case for the NAACP's strategy to not only unequal facilities, but the very principle of segregation.

Home | Long Road to Brown | Long Road Ahead | About the Film | Community Discussion | For Educators | Resources | Buy the DVD
© 2004 Firelight Media. All rights reserved. | PBS Privacy Policy