Segregation in U.s. Public Schools: The Legal Dismantling of the "separate but Equal" Doctrine by Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and African Americans

Open Access
Buckley, Kathleen Mary
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in History and Secondary Education
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr Grace Pena Delgado, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael James Milligan, Honors Advisor
  • Scott Alan Metzger, Faculty Reader
  • segregation
  • education
  • Chinese Exclusion Act
  • National Origins Act
  • Black Codes
  • "separate but equal"
  • community organizations
“Segregation in U.S. Public Schools” explores the legal exclusion of African American, Chinese-descent, and Mexican-descent students in U.S. public schools from the late-nineteenth century through the late-twentieth centuries. It seeks to examine the historical forces that justified the “separate but equal” doctrine established by the 1896 Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson. From the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, African American, Mexican American, and Chinese American communities worked with one another to mount legal campaigns against de facto and de jure segregation in American public schools. The gradual battle to achieve educational equality was not a chain of isolated legal achievements, but rather, it was a culmination of collaborative, multi-ethnic alliances and grass-roots organizing that set the stage to end legal segregation in public schools. Through durable bonds among lawyers, community groups, and parents of school-age children, the precedent-setting cases of Mendez v. Westminster and Tape v. Hurley as well as other lesser-known state- and federal-level cases, successfully dismantled segregation in U.S. public schools in 1954 with the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.