The Power of One Decision: Brown v. Board of Education

Summary

As the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court decides cases and controversies that relate to the Constitution and laws of the United States. Because the Court is a reactive institution, it does not seek complaints to resolve. Instead the Court relies on people to bring their concerns to it.

When minority students through legal representatives decided to take their challenge of the “separate but equal” doctrine to the Supreme Court, the 1954 decision handed down by the Court in Brown v. Board of Education and enforced by the executive branch, changed their lives and America forever.

This lesson is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education” in which Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer participate in a Q&A session with a group of high school students. The conversation revolves around the issues and arguments in Brown v. Board of Education. Through the lesson, students gain insight into decision-making at the Supreme Court, learn about the people behind the case, construct a persuasive argument, and evaluate the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

The estimated time for this lesson is four class periods. It is aligned with the National Standards for Civics and Government.

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