The Supreme Court over the years has made some very important decisions regarding the rights of American citizens. Only a few of these, though, still linger in the minds of almost every person residing in the United States. One of these cases is Brown v. Board of Education. This case dealt with the question: Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprive the minority children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment? This question was dividing the nation and the Supreme Court knew that it had to hand out a just and unanimous decision.
During this time in history the doctrine of “separate but equal” was the law. This came to be because of an earlier Supreme Court case entitled Plessy v. Ferguson. In this case, the Supreme Court stated that separate, but equal public facilities for people of different races was legal under the 14th Amendment. The time that this case happened was in 1896. In 1951, a black railroad worker named Oliver Brown sued the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education for not allowing his daughter to attend an all-white school near her home. Similar cases were being brought against the states of South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. These states, and others, had Jim Crow laws limiting the constitutional rights of African-Americans. People were unwilling to accept what they thought of as an inferior race. The plaintiffs had all lost their cases in the district courts, so the appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear their cases, but as one case based on one issue, desegregation. The plaintiffs argued their case in the 1952 term while Chief Justice Frederick Vinson was in office. The justices were perplexed, so they called to have the sides reargue their cases in the 1953 term on the basis of the 14th Amendment.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." - Amendment I (LIVELY, 1999) "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against ...
In 1953, though, Chief Justice Vinson, from Kentucky, died in office before the cases could be reargued. President Eisenhower appointed California Governor Earl Warren to the seat of Chief Justice. Eisenhower thought that Warren was a conservative, and that his views would reflect his own. He was wrong. Warren was a liberal at heart. The other justices were Sherman Minton from Indiana, Stanley Reed from Kentucky, Felix Frankfurter from Massachusetts, Tom Clark from Texas, William Douglas from Connecticut, Robert Jackson from New York, Hugo Black from Alabama, and Harold Burton from Ohio. A lawyer from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) named Thurgood Marshall argued the cause for the appellants, or plaintiffs. A lawyer named John W. Davis and the Assistant Attorney General of Kansas, Paul E. Wilson, argued the cause for the appellees, or defendants.
“Reargument was largely devoted to the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.” stated Chief Justice Warren in the opinion of the Court. The lawyers on both sides tried to show what the Congress of 1868 was thinking, but all of their research had proved inconclusive. Nobody could have known what that Congress was thinking, and the conditions surrounding public schools had changed. In 1868, the movement toward free schools, by general taxation, had not yet taken hold. Education of white children was largely in the hands of private groups. The Education of black children was almost nonexistent, and practically all of the race was illiterate. In fact, any education of black people was forbidden by law in some states. Even though the Supreme Court justices were reluctant to go against the precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson and by many cases afterward, they courageously did so in a unanimous decision with no dissenters. In the Court’s opinion, Chief Justice Warren read that, ” . . . in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore we hold that the plaintiffs and others . . . are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.” In this opinion the Supreme Court officially made the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, that of “separate but equal” unconstitutional.
The United States is at the forefront of modern democracy. Its unique three branched system allows the government to operate under a quasi-idealistic form of checks and balances. As outlined by the U.S. Constitution, the judicial branch of government serves as the interpreter of the law and is “one of the most sophisticated judicial systems in the world.”1 This complexity is a product of balance ...
The decision reached by the Supreme Court was a good one. They went with what was morally right and not what was politically right. They didn’t even know if the states would follow their decision. It could have created a rift between the federal and state governments, but they still rose to the occasion and restored honor to a job forgotten by most. The decision paved the way for many other advancements in the rights of minorities. It led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which in turn led to the organization of the Equal Opportunity Commission and many other civil rights reforms. Brown v. Board of Education was a stepping stone for all other civil rights movements in the United States.
Linton, Calvin D. The Bicentennial Almanac. Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1975
Garraty, John A. The American Nation. American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. 1966
Goldman, Eric F. The Crucial Decade. Random House, Inc. 1960