Brown v. Board of Education

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

Part I: Records Prior to the Brown Decision, 1896-1953



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-4950 (1950) - Valerie Cogdell et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.
In this case, as in Bolling v. Sharpe, the plaintiffs were denied and excluded from enrollment and instruction in Sousa Junior High School solely because of their race or color.

Case File: CV-509 (1952) - Yvonne B. Moses v. Hobart M. Corning et al.
In this case, the plaintiff was denied admission into Buchanan School because of her race and color. The case was dismissed and appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Case File: CV-515 (1952) - Kenneth Alan Miller et al. v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia et al.
This case was initiated when the plaintiffs were denied admission to the Columbia Institution for the Deaf-the only provider of education for deaf children in the District of Columbia-because of their race.

Case File: CV-2666 (1952) - Wallace W. Williams et al. v. James A. Gannon et al.
In this case, the plaintiffs were excluded from enrollment and instruction in Wheatley Elementary School solely because of their race or color. The case was suspended until a ruling was made by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Bolling et al. v. Sharpe et al. In August 1960, the case was eventually dismissed for "Failure to Prosecute," without costs.

National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage)
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in Alaska, 1884-1991
Records of the First Division of the United States Territorial Court

Case File: CV-1323-KA (1929) - Irene Jones v. R. V. Ellis, P. J. Gilmore, and Mrs. Axel Carlson, as the School Board of the Incorporated city of Ketchikan, Alaska
In this case, the United States District Court held that a school child of mixed blood who led a "civilized" life and lived within city limits had the right to attend city schools despite the existence of Indian schools (operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs) in the city which he or she could attend.

National Archives-Great Lakes Region (Chicago)
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in Ohio, 1803-1966
Records of the United States Circuit Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Division at Cincinnati

Case File CV-2981 (1880) - James H. Vines v. James Cruse, S. L. Garrett, James H. Ward, J. A. Gates, J. A. Cowrey, H. A. Delano, and John M. Buntin
This case involved a school desegregation lawsuit filed in 1880 under the Civil Rights Act of 1875 on behalf of an eleven-year-old African American boy named James H. Vines from Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio. On January 2, 1880, the boy's father, Jacob Vines, filed suit in the U.S. Circuit Court at Cincinnati against the township school trustees and school teacher for forcibly excluding his son from the school on November 10, 1879, and for assaulting the child when he returned to the school the following day. On April 28, 1881, a jury rendered a verdict for the plaintiff and ordered the school teacher, John Buntin, to pay $50 in damages plus the plaintiff's court costs. Buntin avoided paying the judgment, and a subsequent court-ordered sale of the teacher's personal property by the U.S. Marshal in 1885 failed to identify any property that could be sold.

National Archives-Southwest Region (Fort Worth)
Records of the U.S. District and Other Courts in Oklahoma, 1889-1983
Records of the United States Circuit Court for the Western District, Oklahoma City Division

Case File: CV-4039 (1950) - George W. McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education et al. (339 U.S. 637)
In this case, a permanent injunction was issued to restrain the defendants from enforcing Sections 455 and 457 of the Oklahoma Statutes of 1941 on the basis of its violation of due process under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and Sections 41m and 43 of Title VIII, United States Code. George W. McLaurin was admitted to the graduate school of the University of Oklahoma, but he was segregated in seats, desks, and tables from white students. The court decided that the plaintiff's education was unequal under the state's discriminatory restrictions and that this was a violation of his right to equal educational opportunity.

National Archives-Pacific Region (San Francisco)
Records of the U.S. District Court and Other Courts in California, 1851-1977
Records of the United States District Court for the Ninth Circuit, Northern District of California
Civil and Appellate Case Files, 1863-1911

Case File: CV-13245 (1902) - Henry Wong Him v. Mary E. Callahan
This case involved an early "separate but equal" ruling. The plaintiff filed so that Chinese students would be allowed to attend San Francisco public schools attended by white students. The judge refused the plaintiff's bill for an injunction by saying that a system of separate but equal Chinese and white schools in San Francisco satisfied all requirements for "Equal Protection" under the 14th Amendment. The defendants (City of San Francisco) did not reply or appear before the Court, and the judge found them in default. Notwithstanding, the judge also ruled in the defendants' favor on the bill.

National Archives-Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel)
Records of the United States Southern District Court of California, Central Division (Los Angeles)

Case File: CV-4299 (1945) - Gonzalo Mendez et al. v. Westminister School District of Orange, CA, et al.
This case was filed by Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez against four southern California school districts, demanding an end to the segregation of Hispanic schoolchildren in Orange County. The Mendez family won the case in the United States District Court and again on appeal to the Ninth District Court of Appeals. While the ruling was limited to desegregation of Hispanics in California, it was part of the national legal effort to end segregation and is considered by many Californians to be their Brown (1954) case .

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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

Case File: 15248 (1896) - Homer Adolph Plessy v. J. H. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537)
This case, filed in 1890 by Homer A. Plessy, challenged a Louisiana law that required separate train cars for African Americans and whites. The Supreme Court ordered that "separate but equal" facilities for African American and white railroad passengers were constitutional and did not violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. This decision established the "separate but equal" doctrine that became the constitutional basis for segregation.

Case File: 17206 (1899) - Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County, State of Georgia (175 U.S. 528)
In this case, the Supreme Court upheld a Richmond County Board of Education decision to close a free public African American school due to fiscal constraints, despite the fact that the district continued to operate two free public white schools. The Court's opinion argued that there was no evidence in the record that the decision was based on racial discrimination and that the distribution of public funds for public education was within the discretion of school authorities.

Case File: 20511 (1908) - Berea College v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (211 U.S. 45)
In this case, the Supreme Court upheld a Kentucky law forbidding interracial instruction at all schools and colleges in the state.

Case File: 31534 (1927) - Gong Lum v. Rice (275 U.S. 78)
In this case, the Supreme Court held that a Mississippi school district may require a Chinese American girl to attend a segregated African American school rather than a white school. The Supreme Court applied the "separate but equal" formulation of Plessy v. Ferguson decision to the public schools.

Case File: 57 October Term 1938 - State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (305 U.S. 337)
In this case, the Supreme Court decided in favor of Lloyd Gaines, an African American student who had been refused admission to the University of Missouri School of Law. The case set a precedent for other states to attempt to "equalize" African American school facilities, rather than integrate them. The Court held that the state must furnish Gaines "within its borders facilities for legal education substantially equal to those which the State there offered for the persons of the white race, whether or not other Negroes sought the same opportunity."

Case File: 369 October Term 1947 - Sipuel v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma (332 U.S. 631)
In this case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Lois Ada Sipuel could not be denied entrance to a state law school solely because of her race or color, that such denial solely on the basis of race was unconstitutional.

Case File: 44 October Term 1949 - Herman Sweatt v. Painter (339 U.S. 631)
In this case, the Supreme Court held that the University of Texas Law School must admit an African American student named Herman Sweatt. The Court ruled that the University of Texas School of Law was far superior in its offerings and resources to the separate African American law school, which had been hastily established in a downtown basement. The Court held that Texas failed to provide "separate but equal" education, prefiguring the future opinion in the Brown (1954) case that "separate but equal is inherently unequal."

Case File: 34 October Term 1949 - George W. McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents et al. (339 U.S. 637)
In this case, the Supreme Court invalidated the University of Oklahoma's requirement that an African American student, admitted to a graduate program unavailable to him at the state's African American school, sit in separate sections of or in spaces adjacent to the classroom, library, and cafeteria. The Supreme Court held that these restrictions were unconstitutional because they interfered with his "ability to study, to engage in discussions, and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession."

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Records of the United States Court of Appeals, RG 276

National Archives Building, Washington, DC
General Docket Briefs, Official Trial Transcripts and Related Records, 1893-1956

Case File: 11018 - Spottswood Thomas Bolling et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.
Transcript of Records, April Term 1951-Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Case File: 11019 - Valerie Cogdell et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al.
Transcript of Records, April Term 1951-Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

General Appellate Jurisdiction Docket Books, 1893-1974
Volume 10, Docket Sheets 11000-11089
Docket of Bolling et al. v. Sharpe et al. (11018) and Cogdell et al. v. Sharpe et al. (11019)

National Archives-Pacific Region (San Francisco)
Records of the Ninth Circuit, 1903-1955
U.S. District Court, Ninth Circuit

Case File: 11310 - Westminster School District of Orange County et al. v. Gonzalo Mendez et al. (1946-47)
This case documents the school district's unsuccessful appeal against the decision of the district court in Los Angeles upholding Gonzalo Mendez. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Jewish Congress, and the Japanese American Citizens League all submitted amicus briefs to the appellate court, arguing in favor of court-ordered integration. District (trial) court filings and transcripts are among the holdings of NARA-Laguna Niguel, CA; while (Ninth) Circuit Court (appeal) case records (affirming the district court ruling) are available at NARA-San Francisco. NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, who would join the Supreme Court, cited the Mendez case in Brown (1954).

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Brown v. Board of Education >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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