Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

The D.C. Board of Education denied a petition by a group of parents in Anacostia to racially integrate John Phillip Sousa Junior High School. The following year, in 1950, the parents sought admission to the all-white school for 11 African-American children. When the request was again denied by the Board, a Howard University law professor brought a lawsuit. The claim was dismissed by the trial court.



  1. Did the segregation of the public schools of Washington D.C. violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment?


  1. The Fifth Amendment's guarantee of "liberty" protected by due process also guaranteed racial equality in public education in the District of Columbia.

    In a unanimous decision authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court found that racial discrimination in the public schools of Washington, DC, denied blacks due process of law as protected by the Fifth Amendment. Noting the legal peculiarities of DC, Justice Warren recognized that the Fifth Amendment (which applied to the District) did not contain an Equal Protection Clause, while the Fourteenth Amendment. Lacking an equal protection standard to invalidate the District's segregation, Warren creatively relied on the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of "liberty" to find the segregation of the Washington, DC, schools unconstitutional.

    The Supreme Court decided this case on the same day as Brown v. Board of Education, which overshadowed it. Its most important legacy is the concept of reverse incorporation and the application of the same anti-discrimination principles to state and federal governments.