What made Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka unique in comparison to similar cases on which the NAACP had been working to fight segregation in education? How was the argument used to fight segregation in this case a departure from the NAACP's previous legal approach?
In previous cases such as Reynolds v. Topeka (1903), the city of Topeka, Kansas, was allowed to have separate schools for black and white children. Based on the ruling in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), facilities such as schools were allowed to be segregated as long as the schools were "equal." African American schools were, however, not equal to those of...
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In Brown v Board of Education, the NAACP lawyers approached the detrimental psycholgical and societal impact of segregation. They argued that segregation in any public or private setting implies that African Americans were inferior to Whites simply because of race.
This was the first case in which experts testified to the unequal psychological affects to the children. These affects would make them underperform in school and in life. They testified that children aspire to meet expectations that are placed upon them. Segregation implied that black students were not expected to do well in school. Therefore, the children in these schools had little incentive to excel.
Previous cases brought by the NAACP focused on the physical conditons of the seperate schools, the money spent on white schools versus black schools, and the differences in the quality of education. No prior case discussed the lasting psychological effects that segregation in and of itself would have on the students.