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The John Philip Sousa Junior High School was involved in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court case. The specific case — Bolling v. Sharpe — was adjoined to Brown v. Board at the invitation of the Supreme Court. On May 17, 1954, Washington's separate public school system was deemed unconstitutional. The school was later renamed the John Philip Sousa Middle School. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

The John Philip Sousa Junior High School was built in 1950 for white students. It was one a number of new schools in the city being built for whites while African Americans remained in old buildings. On September 11, 1950, Gardner Bishop attempted to enroll eleven black students at Sousa. He was refused. Charles Hamilton Houston, a Howard University law professor and mentor to Thurgood Marshall, originally took Bishop's case, but after his untimely death, James Nabrit, also a Howard University law professor, decided to bring suit against the city, attacking segregation as unconstitutional. Spottswood T. Bolling, Jr., one of the eleven students, was the main plaintiff. Melvin Sharpe was the president of the Board of Education. Nabrit was unsuccessful, and the U.S. District judge rejected the suit. Nabrit appealed the case to the Supreme Court and was invited to join other plaintiffs with similar suits.

In September 1954, the Washington, DC, public school system began its desegregation process.

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