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

When minority students 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. In this lesson plan, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education,” 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.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This landmark Supreme Court decision declared that laws establishing separate public schools for black and white children were unconstitutional. To support teachers as they commemorate this important anniversary in their classes, the Share My Lesson team has selected a variety of free lesson plans, educational resources and classroom materials about equity, particularly in schools.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Conversation on Brown v. Board of Education

Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy discuss with high school students this landmark case that ended racial segregation in schools. They explore the background of the case, the role of Thurgood Marshall, how Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and the events following the unanimous ruling that said that “separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Special Needs/Language Focus, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Brown v. Board of Education (1954). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes nine classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Special Needs/Language Focus
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) eLesson

After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was passed to grant citizenship to former slaves and protect them from civil rights violations in their home states. Public schools were relatively rare throughout the United States, but were often segregated by race where they existed. The same Congress that passed the 14th Amendment created racially segregated schools for the District of Columbia. In the 20th century, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began a litigation campaign designed to bring an end to state mandated segregation, calling attention to the shabby accommodations provided for blacks, as well as arguing the damaging psychological effects that segregation had on black school children. One case was brought on behalf of Linda Brown, a third-grader from Topeka, Kan.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Power of Nonviolence: Rosa Parks: A Quest for Equal Protection Under the Law

This lesson asks students to revisit the well-known story of a figure in the civil rights movement–Rosa Parks–through the primary source documents associated with her arrest in 1955. The arrest occurred in the shadow of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) and had a powerful impact on the public policy of segregation and the application of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8

Equal Protection: What Is Discrimination?

What is the purpose of the equal protection clause? What did Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education say? What are two ways of understanding the clause? This video lecture is part of an online course taught by University of Pennsylvania law professor Kermit Roosevelt III. “Introduction to Key Constitutional Concepts and Supreme Court Cases” covers the topics: Where does the Constitution come from? How has it changed over the years? How do we know what it means?

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Pursuit of Justice

The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Famous Kansas Child

In this lesson, students will read about a Kansas child involved in a famous United States Supreme Court case. They will think critically to form opinions about equality, segregation, and integration, and will distinguish between fact and opinion.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5