The “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson legally sanctioned the practice of placing children in schools according to race. In the early 1950s, the following 17 states required racial segregation in public schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.1 Four others--Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming--permitted segregation in public schools if local communities wanted it.2
By the fall of 1952, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear arguments in five separate cases that focused on the constitutionality of maintaining segregated public schools. The Court decided to group the cases together under the title Brown v. Board of Education and hear arguments collectively. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark remarked: “We consolidated them and made Brown the first so that the whole question would not smack of being a purely Southern one.”3
Questions for Map 1
1. Shade in the states where segregation was practiced. What pattern do you notice? Why do you think this was the case?
2. Locate where the five cases represented in Brown v. Board of Education originated. How would you describe the location of each?
3. Why do you think the Supreme Court decided to consider the five cases together?
4. Reread the quote by Justice Clark. Based on Map 1, what do you think he meant?
* The map on this screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Map 1, but be aware that the file may take as much as 30 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.
1 Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), 327.