Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Art (BA)




Monica Pelayo


Rajini Srikanth

Subject Categories

African American Studies | History | Legal Studies | Race and Ethnicity


While the Brown V. Board of Education case is constantly referenced when discussing educational equity and desegregation, Bolling v. Sharpe stands as another important education civil rights case and is perhaps more telling of the story of education in the United States. Bolling V. Sharpe was argued and decided in the United States Supreme Court over the course of 1952 to 1954. Similar to Brown v. Board in terms of intent, Bolling v. Sharpe aimed to desegregate public schools in Washington, D.C. in order to give African-American students equal access to a high quality public education on par with that of their white peers. This historical study will examine the factors that led to the case of Bolling v. Sharpe, analyze the cases intended impact and discuss the factors that led to its ultimate failure. Bolling v. Sharpe intended to end segregation for African-American students in D.C. public schools, and the larger African- American and civil rights communities perceived the verdict as a victory. However, the court ruling itself could not undo decades of systemic racism, and could not account for the de facto segregation that Washington, D.C. would endure over the course of twenty years in relation to social and economic policies. Despite civil rights leader’s best efforts, de facto segregation replaced de jure segregation, and the cities African-American student population still lagged behind their white peers academically and socially. Socio-economic conditions and the historical context of race in D.C. has stifled the academic achievement of African-American students in Washington D.C, leaving a much more complicated legacy of Bolling v. Sharpe than many would like to acknowledge.