Introduction: Shades of Brown: Black Freedom, White Supremacy, and the Law

  • Waldo E. MartinJr.
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


Arguably the most important Supreme Court ruling in United States history, the Brown decision in 1954 not only overturned the doctrine of separate but equal schools as unconstitutional, but it also put other forms of antiblack discrimination on the road to extinction. The unanimous decision reversed the Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had upheld the concept and practice of state-endorsed racial discrimination— Jim Crow—the chimera of separate but equal public accommodations and institutions for blacks and whites. The Brown decision was the culmination of countless interrelated collective and personal battles waged by blacks and of a series of legal efforts by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from the early days of its existence in the 1910s and 1920s.


Racial Equality White Supremacy Judicial Activism Fourteenth Amendment Black School 
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Copyright information

© Bedford/St. Martin’s 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Waldo E. MartinJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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