NYSBA/LYC Brown v. Board of Education

H.S. Lesson Activity no. 1

Background for Brown


High School Students

Lesson Time

One to two class periods


  1. To demonstrate an understanding of the role of the state and federal judiciary in issues of racial equality in relation to educational opportunity prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision
  2. To demonstrate an understanding of that matters of racial equality and educational opportunity were controversial issues throughout United States history

New York State Social Studies Standards

Standard 1: History of the United States and New York State

  • Students analyze the development of American culture, explaining how ideas, values, beliefs, and traditions have changed over time and how they unite all Americans
  • Students compare and contrast the experiences of different groups in the United States


Handouts - View all handouts [PDF, 86K]


General Web Sites

Web Sites


  • Roberts v. Boston (Massachusetts case) 1850
    • Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick. Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How their Struggle for Equality Changed America. Beacon Press, 2004.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (Supreme Court case) 1896
    • Brook Thomas, ed. Plessy v. Ferguson: a Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford books, 1997.
  • Gong Lum v. Rice (Supreme Court case) 1927
    • Charles Wollenberg. All Deliberate Speed: Segregation and Exclusion in California Schools, 1855-1975. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
  • Mendez v. Westminster (California case) 1946
    • Ian F. Hanley López. Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice. Harvard University Press, 2004.
    • Gonzalez, Gilbert G. Chicano Education in the Era of Segregation. Philadelphia: Balch Institute Press, 1990.


  1. Introduce the topic by explaining that throughout United States history issues of racial equality and educational opportunity have been controversial. Both state and federal courts have responded to these issues. Four cases will be evaluated:
  2. Divide the class into four groups and explain that they will be given a short summary of the case (see attachments). They are to read the summary and discuss the issues.
  3. Provide students with web sites to further research the case or provide each group with the web information.
  4. After discussing their information, each group should provide the following information to the class:
    1. Brief summary of the case which includes:
      • Historical background of the controversy
      • The decision of the court
    2. Impact of the case as it relates to equal education opportunity and racial equality
  5. Each group should place the highlights of their research on a poster to be displayed in the classroom. These will provide convenient background references as more civil rights issues are studied.
  6. Additional Activity: After presentations students may be assigned the following essay:
    • Discuss the impact of state and federal decisions in issues of racial equality and equal educational opportunity. (Use specific court cases in your discussion.)

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