Supreme Court rules public school segregation is unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, May 17, 1954 (UP) - The Supreme Court ruled today in a historic decision that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. Speaking for a unanimous court, Chief Justice Earl Warren said education must be available to all on an equal basis.

The decision, a sweeping victory for Negroes, is probably most important in U.S. race relations since the famous Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that a Negro was not a citizen.


The Civil War reversed that decision.

Warren said because of the wide ramifications of the decision, formulation of specific decrees will be delayed until further arguments have been heard.

But the court by Warren's opinion today laid down the rule that segregation is "a denial of equal protection of the laws" to Negroes.

This is the phraseology of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, on which the Negroes relied in bringing their cases.

Today's decision was taken in four cases brought originally in four states - South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Kansas.

Some 9,000,000 white and 2,650,000 Negro children attend separate schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming also have segregation in some localities.

The momentous ruling invalidates many provisions in state constitutions, laws and administrative regulations in the 17 states which now require segregation.

The 12-page ruling - a document that will rank in sociological significance with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - swept aside the "separate but equal doctrine" laid down by the Supreme Court in 1896.

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