The Brown vs. Board of Education case combined four cases: Brown itself, Briggs vs. Elliott, Davis vs. County School Board of Prince Edward County, and Gebhart vs. Belton. All of these cases were sponsored by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The NAACP was led by W.E.B. Du Bois and Arthur and Joel Spingarn. "It was an organization dedicated to fighting for racial equality and ending segregation; equal rights. It challenged segregation through its legal Defense and Education Fund," (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (MSN Encarta).
The Brown vs. Board of Education decision was the first to go against the Plessy vs. Ferguson "separate but equal" doctrine, whereby the practice of segregation was permitted as long as the separate facilities were "equal." Despite the "equality" purported under the "separate but equal" doctrine, segregated schools reflected a grave inequality between the quality of the education available to black children verses white children. The Brown court believed that segregation is not acceptable in public places. Rather, both blacks and whites should be able to go to the same places and use the same things without regard to race.
The big question that was addressed by the Court, involved the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The question being "Does segregation of children in public school solely on the basics of race, even though the physical faculties and other tangible' factors may be equal, deprive the children of equal educational opportunities?" (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). The court had to determine if segregation of schools was constitutional or not. "Racial segregation in Southern public school dates back to the 1860s. Throughout the 19th century, more than 95% of all blacks lived in the South, so segregation there affected an overwhelming majority of America's black population" (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (MSN Encarta). By the 1900s, the South was a deeply segregated society.
The case began on behalf of Linda Brown, a black 3rd grader living in Topeka, Kansas. Linda lived five blocks from an all-white school. To get to the all-black school, she had to walk 21blocks. She was denied permission to attend the nearby all-white school where her friend went to school. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education to compel the Board to allow their daughter to attend the school closest to their house, regardless of race, so she wouldn't have to travel as far. Other parents and the NAACP became involved as well.
In 1951, the NAACP pressed for an injunction forcing Topeka to stop public school segregation. The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the Topeka Board of Education. In 1952, the NAACP pressed on with the challenge. The Brown case was combined with four other school segregation cases under the same name...