Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

The Audubon Regional library operated three branches and two bookmobiles. Blacks were not allowed to enter any of the branch libraries. The bookmobiles were segregated: a red one served only whites and a blue one served blacks. Brown was a black man who entered a library branch with four other blacks and requested a book, The Story of the Negro. The librarian informed Brown that the book was not available, but that she would request it through the state library, and he could pick it up or have it mailed to him. After the conversation, the men sat down (making no noise or disturbance) and refused to leave. They were arrested "for not leaving a public building when asked to do so by an officer."


Did the actions of the arresting officer infringe upon Brown's (and his companions') freedom of speech, assembly, and freedom to petition the Government for redress of grievances as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Decision: 5 votes for Brown, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process

The divided Court found that the actions of the police violated the Constitution. Justice Fortas argued that states may only regulate the use of public facilities in a "reasonably nondiscriminatory manner, equally applicable to all." Maintaining separate library facilities clearly violated this principle. Fortas also reasoned that the demonstration did not disturb the peace of other library patrons or disrupt the library's activities; the time and method of the sit-in were carefully chosen and executed. Justice Black dissented, joined by three other justices. He argued that the First Amendment "does not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else's property, even that owned by government and dedicated to other purposes, as a stage to express dissident ideas."

Cite this Page
BROWN v. LOUISIANA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
BROWN v. LOUISIANA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"BROWN v. LOUISIANA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,