Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and therefore violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the decision's 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court's second decision in Brown II (349 U.S. 294 (1955)) only ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed".
The case originated with a lawsuit filed by the Brown family, a family of black Americans in Topeka, Kansas, after their local public school district refused to enroll their daughter in the school closest to their home, instead requiring her to ride a bus to a blacks-only school further away. A number of other black families joined the lawsuit, and the Supreme Court later combined their case with several other similar lawsuits from other areas of the United States. At trial, the district court ruled in favor of the school board based on the Supreme Court's precedent in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Court had ruled that racial segregation was not in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause if the facilities in question were otherwise equal, a doctrine that had come to be known as "separate but equal". The Browns, represented by NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.
The Court's decision in Brown partially overruled Plessy v. Ferguson by declaring that the "separate but equal" notion was unconstitutional for American public schools and educational facilities. It paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement, and a model for many future impact litigation cases. In the American South, especially the "Deep South", where racial segregation was deeply entrenched, the reaction to Brown among most white people was "noisy and stubborn". Many Southern governmental and political leaders embraced a plan known as "Massive Resistance", created by Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, in order to frustrate attempts to force them to de-segregate their school systems. Four years later, in the case of Cooper v. Aaron, the Court reaffirmed its ruling in Brown, and explicitly stated that state officials and legislators had no power to nullify its ruling.