Conflicts of Segregation: A Study of the Constitution and the Supreme Court By: Pam Brody Samantha Spring
Thesis Question Is there a conflict of segregation between the decisions made by the Supreme Court and the Constitution?
Thesis Statement The Plessy v. Ferguson(1896) case and the Brown v. Board of Education(1954) case show opposing views that the Supreme Court (using the Constitution) made on segregation.
Plessy v. Ferguson(1896) In this case, Homer Plessy refused to abide by the Louisiana state law and take an “all whites” train. The Supreme Court ruled that Plessy was guilty due to the fact of “separate but equal.” They ruled that Plessy was getting the same public facility as the whites.
This case started when African-American third-grader Linda Brown complained to her father Oliver Brown about how far she had to travel to get to school. She went to an African-American school when an all-white school was much closer nearby. Oliver Brown spoke to the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and brought the case to the district court. This court ruled in favor of the Board of Education because of the "separate but equal" doctrine that the schools supposedly followed. When this case was brought to the Supreme Court, the Court ruled in favor of Brown because the separated schools were definitely no equal, so they didn't support the 14th Amendment. This decision was the beginning of integration and helped to spark the civil rights movement. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Homer Plessy, a man 7/8 white and 1/8 black, was forced to go on the all-blacks train car by the Louisiana Separate Car Act. One day, he challenged this Act by going on an all-whites car. After going to the district court, Plessy was proven guilty for not following the Louisiana law. In 1896, the Plessy case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Plessy v. Ferguson: the case
After being brought to the Supreme Court, eight out of nine justices ruled that Plessy was guilty of not following the Louisiana Separate Car Act. They stated that even though whites and blacks couldn’t be in the same car, it was ok for the cars to be segregated because they were the same type of cars following the “separate but equal” clause from the 14 th Amendment. Plessy v. Ferguson: the decision
When Linda Brown complained to her father about how she had to walk a further distance to her all-blacks school then walk a shorter distance to an all-whites school, her father, Oliver Brown, made sure that she would get her rights to walk a shorter distance. The NAACP thought their best lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, could have their name be shown in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. The NAACP was looking for a case that would spread their beliefs of integrating schools, and this case was the one. When brought to the Topeka, Kansas district court, they ruled in favor of the Board of Education due to the “separate but equal” clause made in the Plessy case. After this decision, The NAACP would not stand for it, and made itself known to the Supreme Court. Brown v. Board of Education: the case
School Linda Brown attended
Brown v. Board of Education: the decision
After appealing to the Supreme Court in 1954, they ruled in favor of the Browns. They believed that Linda Brown should be able to walk to the closer all-whites school due to their new belief in integrating schools.
Linda Brown Oliver Brown
Plessy v. Ferguson and the Constitution
When the states were making segregated laws, one of them was the Louisiana Separate Car Act. These laws were unconstitutional on many levels. Even though, under the 13 th Amendment, there’s no more slavery, the states made sure that they’d make laws to take away the rights of African Americans, which goes against the Constitution because the laws gave unequal citizenship to the African Americans.
Supreme Court in 1896
Brown v. Board of Education and the Constitution
Even though the decision made in the Plessy v. Ferguson was unconstitutional, 60 years later, the Supreme Court made a constitutional decision in the Brown case of 1954. They ruled in favor of the Constitution because of their new belief to integrate schools, which supports the Constitution in every born U.S. citizen has the same right as the other.
Supreme Court in 1954
To conclude, Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) and Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) show opposing views of how the Supreme Court determined the Constitution on the topic of segregation. Of course, the judges were different and had different opinions and ideas, but these examples also show that the Constitution can be determined in several ways. The topic of segregation was a controversial issue for many years during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the Plessy case, the court ruled that by the Fourteenth Amendment, separate public transportation utilities could be equal and therefore, provided the legal justification for segregation for the next fifty or so years. Then, in the Brown case, the Court overruled this decision. Separate schools couldn’t be equal and violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Although we know today that segregation is wrong and unfair, back then, citizens had different ideas. Truthfully, the Constitution may or may not have supported segregation depending on the people who were interpreting what it said and what beliefs they had.
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