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Browder v. Gayle
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued June 5, 1956
Decided November 13, 1956
Full case name Aurelia Browder v. W. A. Gayle, Mayor of Montgomery
Citations 1147 U.S. (more)
142 F. Supp. 707 - Dist. Court, MD Alabama, 1956
Prior history Dist. Court, MD Alabama, 1956
The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the district court decision and in effect overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Per curiam opinion, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

Browder v. Gayle, 142 F. Supp. 707 (1956), was a case heard before a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on Montgomery and Alabama state bus segregation laws. The District Court ruled 2-1, with one dissenting, on June 5, 1956 that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment protections for equal treatment.

The state and city appealed, and the decision was upheld by the United States Supreme Court on November 13, 1956. A motion for clarification and for rehearing was denied on December 17, 1956.


About two months after the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, civil rights activists reconsidered the case of Claudette Colvin. She was a 15-year-old girl who had been the first person arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Black leaders had been looking for a test case to test the constitutionality of the segregation laws of the state of Alabama and the city of Montgomery. One of the attorneys, Clifford Durr, was concerned that an appeal of Mrs. Rosa Parks' case would get tied up in the Alabama state courts. They needed a way to get directly to the federal courts. Colvin and several others who were discriminated against on Montgomery busses, agreed to become plaintiffs in a federal civil action lawsuit, thus bypassing the Alabama court system. The bus company said segregation was valid on "privately owned busses" which operated according to the laws of the city and state.


On February 1, 1956, the case of Browder v. Gayle was filed in U.S. District Court. Browder was a Montgomery housewife; W. A. Gayle was the mayor of Montgomery.

On June 13, 1956, the District Court ruled that "the enforced segregation of black and white passengers on motor buses operating in the City of Montgomery violates the Constitution and laws of the United States," because the conditions deprived people of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court further enjoined the state of Alabama and city of Montgomery from continuing to operate segregated buses.

The case was not completed until it was heard later that year by the US Supreme Court, as the state and city appealed the decision. On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld the District Court's ruling and ordered the state of Alabama (and Montgomery) to desegregate its buses. One month later on December 20, after Mayor Gayle was handed official written notice by federal marshals, the Montgomery buses were desegregated.

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