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(1953) Thurgood Marshall, “Argument Before the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education”

Many historians and legal scholars consider the U.S. Supreme Court"s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education to be one of the most important and far reaching pronouncements in the history of the Court.  On December 8, 1953 Thurgood Marshall, the chief legal counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) gave the argument for the plaintiffs which appears below.  

IT FOLLOWS THAT with education, this Court has made segregation and inequality equivalent concepts. They have equal rating, equal footing, and if segregation thus necessarily imports inequality, it makes no great difference whether we say that the Negro is wronged because he is segregated, or that he is wronged because he received unequal treatment...

I would like to say that each lawyer on the other side has made it clear as to what the position of the state was on this, and it would be all right possibly but for the fact that this is so crucial. There is no way you can repay lost school years.

These children in these cases are guaranteed by the states some twelve years of education in varying degrees, and this idea, if I understand it, to leave it to the states until they work it out-and I think that is a most ingenious argument- you leave it to the states, they say, and then they say that the states haven"t done anything about it in a hundred years, so for that reason this Court doesn"t touch it.

The argument of judicial restraint has no application in this case. There is a relationship between federal and state, but there is no corollary or relationship as to the Fourteenth Amendment.

The duty of enforcing, the duty of following the Fourteenth Amendment, is placed upon the states. The duty of enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment is placed upon this Court, and the argument that they make over and over again to my mind is the same type of argument they charge us with making, the same argument Charles Sumner made. Possibly so.

And we hereby charge them with making the same argument that was made before the

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