Definition of separate but equal from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

 

separate but equal

 
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the phrase used to support the principle of segregation in the southern US. It was based on a US Supreme Court decision in 1896 which said that segregation was legal provided that the separate facilities for black people were equal to those for white people. It was also used as an excuse for segregation in schools, restaurants, etc., where conditions for black people were usually much worse than those for white people. The Supreme Court case of Brown v Board of Education in 1954 resulted in a decision which ended the principle of 'separate but equal'.