Approaches to Brown v. Board of Education: Some Notes on Teaching a Seminal Case
Saint Louis University Law Journal, Vol 49, No. 777, 2005. Reprinted with permission of the Saint Louis University Law Journal © 20__ and/or 19__, St. Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri.
40 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 6, 2018
During the past year, dozens of American law schools commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The attention was appropriate because Brown is one of the Supreme Court’s seminal decisions. By all appearances, the fiftieth anniversary of Brown attracted much more attention than did, say, the 200th anniversary of Marbury v. Madison  in 2003 or the centennial of Lochner v. New York  this year. Brown’s unique significance resides in part in the fact that it changed America’s constitutional norm regarding race, our most embarrassing and vexing problem. In effectively overturning the doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson  that separate but equal was consistent with the Equal Protection Clause, Brown rejected apartheid as a constitutional principle to organize American society. It went “where no court had ever gone before: to dismantle an entrenched social order.” As such it has become “a beloved legal and political icon.”
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