Cornell Law Review Volume 90 Issue 2

Brown v. Board of Education, Footnote 11, and Multidisciplinarity

Brown and its legacy understandably continue to fuel an already voluminous commentary.  The decision’s fiftieth anniversary contributes another spike in scholarly and public attention.  Many dwell upon the decision’s implications for separation of powers and constitutional interpretation.  Others focus on such questions as the decision’s influence on school integration and the incorporation of social science evidence in footnote 11 of the Brown opinion.  Much of the commentary, however, ignores one of Brown‘s critical–though underappreciated–indirect effects: transforming the equal educational opportunity doctrine by casting it empirically.  Moreover, this indirect effect in turn contributes to one of Brown‘s key unanticipated effects: contributing to law’s increasingly multidisciplinary character.  This Article explores both aspects of Brown‘s legacy.  If my central claims are correct, my response to the Brown dilemma is that although it did not accomplish its intended goal of school integration, it accomplished much else, albeit indirectly and unexpectedly.


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