Brown v. Board of Education

Federal Records Pertaining to
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)

Part II: Records Relating Directly to the Brown Decision, ca. 1954



Records of the Judicial Branch

Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21

National Archives Building, Washington, DC
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in the District of Columbia, 1801-1982
Records of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Case File: CV-4949 (1950) - Spottswood Thomas Bolling et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.
This case went before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia after the plaintiffs were denied admission to John Philip Sousa Junior High School solely because of their race or color, declaring segregation was unconstitutional in public schools. The judge dismissed the case. It was appealed to the court of appeals, but was allowed to advance to the United States Supreme Court, where it was joined with four other cases under the name Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al.

Case File: CV-3694 (1954) - Walter M. Sabine et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.
In this case, the plaintiffs sought an injunction against the effectuation of a plan for racial integration of the public school system in the District of Columbia.

National Archives-Southeast Region (Atlanta)
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in South Carolina
Records of the United States District for the Eastern District of South Carolina, Charleston Division

Case File: CV-2657 (1950) - Harry Briggs, Jr., et al. v. R. W. Elliott et al. (98 F. Supp. 797)
This case concerned twenty African American parents from Clarendon County, South Carolina, who filed suit against school officials on behalf of their children in 1950. They sought better schools with equal educational facilities, curricula, equipment, and opportunities equal to those provided for white children. The United States District Court ruled that the schools attended by African American children were inferior to the white schools, and they ordered the school system to equalize the facilities. But, because the children were denied admission to white schools during the period of school upgrading, the case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The case was one of five separate cases heard concurrently by the United States Supreme Court under the collective title Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al.

National Archives-Central Plains Region (Kansas City)
Records of U.S. District and Other Courts in Kansas, 1855-1984
Records of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, First Division (Topeka)

Case File: CV-T-316 (1951) - Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. (347 U.S. 483) (1954) and (349 U.S. 294) (1955)
In this case, a permanent injunction and restraining order was issued to admit African American children to white schools. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that "in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." The following four cases were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in the Brown decisions of 1954 and 1955:
Harry Briggs, Jr., et al. v. R. W. Elliott et al.;
Dorothy E. Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al.;
Spottswood Thomas Bolling et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.;
Francis B. Gebhart et al. v. Ethel Louise Belton et al.

National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region (Center City Philadelphia)
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in Virginia, 1793-1956
Records of the United States District Court for the Eastern District, Richmond Division

Case File: CV-1333 (1952) - Dorothy Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, VA, et al. (103 F. Supp. 337)
This case was one of the original five school desegregation cases joined in Brown (1954).
This Virginia case grew out of a boycott by African American students who attended the segregated Moton High School in protest of the poor and inferior conditions of school facilities that included the use of tarpaper shacks as classrooms. The case was appealed twice to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the title of the case was changed in the late 1950s to Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (337 U.S. 218), when it again was heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1964.

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Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, RG 267

National Archives Building, Washington, DC
Appellate Case Files, 1792-2000

Cases: 1-3, 5 October Term 1954 - Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al. (347 U.S. 483)
The documents pertaining to the following appellate case files:
1 October Term 1954 Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al.
2 October Term 1954 Harry Briggs, Jr., et al. v. R. W. Elliott et al.
3 October Term 1954 Dorothy E. Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al.
5 October Term 1954 Francis Gebhart et al. v. Belton et al. on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Delaware.
The Brown (1954) decision held that the "separate but equal" doctrine, established under Plessy v. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537), had no place in the field of education. Further, it held that the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race or color deprived children of minority groups the due process of equal educational opportunities guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. The material relating to this decision is available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1954, Appellate Jurisdiction: Case Files of Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al., No. 1 to 5 October 1954 (3 rolls). This microfilm publication also includes the case file for Spottswood Thomas Bolling v. C. Melvin Sharpe (347 US 497).

Case File: 4 October Term 1954 - Spottswood Thomas Bolling et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al. (347 US 497)
This case involved African American children in Washington, DC, who were being denied admission to the same public schools that white children attended solely because of their race or color. In a unanimous decision, the Court found that racial discrimination in Washington, DC, public schools denied African American children due process of law as protected by the Fifth Amendment. The 14th Amendment, used as the standard for outlawing school desegregation in Brown (1954) only applies to states and is not applicable in the District of Columbia. Chief Justice Warren, recognizing that the Fifth Amendment did not contain an equal protection clause, creatively relied on the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of "liberty" to find the segregation of Washington, DC, schools unconstitutional.

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