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In Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the “separate but equal” doctrine that it had articulated in the late 19th century in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). This “separate but equal” doctrine became the legal basis for racial segregation in schools, colleges, universities, and the wider American society. In Brown, the Court, building on its earlier precedent from disputes in higher education, declared that racially segregated schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Less well known than Brown is a series of earlier cases in which the Supreme Court undermined racial segregation in higher education: Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) and the companion cases of McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (1950) and Sweatt ...

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