In honor of Black History Month, Gordon & Rees remembers the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and how a team of lawyers and one little girl changed the lives of not just African-Americans but all Americans in the United States.
Sixty years ago, the parents of seven-year-old Linda Brown attempted to enroll Linda into their local neighborhood elementary school, but Linda was denied admission because she was African-American. Although the elementary school was only seven blocks away from Linda's home, the school said Linda had to attend one of the segregated schools that was several miles away. The school's refusal to admit the African-American third-grader to what was designated as a "whites only" elementary school prompted the filing of the nation's most influential class action lawsuit for African-Americans.
Brown et al v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was filed in 1951 by a team of lawyers from the NAACP. The purpose of the lawsuit was to obtain a reversal of the district's policy of racial segregation in elementary schools. However, the lower court ruled in favor of the Board of Education citing the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld a state law allowing "separate but equal" facilities between blacks and whites.
The NAACP lawyers appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brown v. Board of Education as heard before the Supreme Court combined several other cases around the country that also involved the denial of African-American children to "whites only" elementary schools. Oral argument was heard by the Supreme Court in 1952. The NAACP's chief legal counsel, Thurgood Marshall, argued the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiffs.
In 1954, nearly three years after the case was filed, the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous decision overturning the lower court rulings and holding that racial segregation of children in "separate but equal" public schools was unconstitutional.
From the case's chief legal counsel Thurgood Marshall's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 to the election of the country's first African-American president in 2008, Brown v. Board of Education continues to have a positive impact on the promotion and advancement of African-Americans and all Americans in the United States.
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Ms. Fisher is the Diversity Chair for the firm's Miami office. Prior to transferring to the Miami office, she created and was a founding member of the "Celebrating Diversity in Law" reception in the firm's San Diego office, which honored local judges, professors, attorneys, and business leaders for their commitment and promotion of diversity in the community.