MalcolmX once said, “I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism andsegregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and thatall human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” Everyperson should be treated equally and live without fear of being discriminatedagainst because of the color of their skin.
During the earlier history of theUnited States, equal rights for all individuals were not available and themistreatment of people of African descent were brutal. The ratification ofmultiple amendments became a turning point in aiding not only of people ofcolor; however, it also led to increase tension from whites to further asserttheir superiority. As a result, it has to led to rise of multiple cases thatwould bring about the case of Brown vs. Board of Topeka Kansas and the decisionon the education system. The Declaration of Independencestates, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are createdequal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Every manshould be created equal and since God granted these rights, government couldnot take them away and be allowed to live a happy and prosperous life. Thefirst African slaves were brought to Jamestown in 1619 and from that moment on,slavery and segregation began in the United States. It wasn’t until theThirteenth Amendment in 1865, that ratified and ended slavery.
The FourteenthAmendment enforces that no state shall deprive anyone of either “due process oflaw” or of the “equal protection of the law.” The Fifteenth Amendment gaveAfrican Americans the right to vote. These Amendments did not protectAfrican Americans from being treated equally by their white counterparts,especially in the South. Many state legislatures legally mandated segregation beforeknown as Jim Crow laws, where blacks and whites could not ride the same busesor attend the same schools.
It wasn’t until 1892, when Homer Plessy, who wasseven-eighths Caucasian, was arrested for refusing to give up his seat on atrain to a white man and move to the car reserved for blacks, as required byLouisiana state law. Plessy decides to fight his arrest and the Plessy v.Ferguson case made it all the way to the United Supreme Count but the courtruled against him 7-1. Justice John Marshal Harlan was the only objector in thecase and stated, “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nortolerates classes among citizens.” Justice Harlan was the only judge to believethat the Constitution is neutral amongst its citizens. With the Plessy ruling, JimCrow laws and racial discrimination continued through the twentieth century. In 1899, the case of Cumming v.
Board of Education of Richmond County, the Supreme Court ruled in support forthe school board’s decision to spend tax money on a public white high schoolwhile choosing to close a public black high school at the same time due tofinancial reasons. In the case of Berea College v. Commonwealth of Kentucky in1908, the Supreme Court backed Kentucky state law forbidding all schools andcolleges to be desegregated. In 1909, the National Association for theAdvancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by W.E.B. DuBois, IdaWells-Barnett, Mary White Ovington, among others to eliminate lynching andfight for racial and social injustice.
In both the Murray v Maryland andMissouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada cases, courts ruled that both law schoolsviolated the “separate but equal” doctrine or the “equal protection clause”.The Court of Appeals in the Murray case, ordered the law school to admit him.
With the Gaines case, Gaines hired Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP legal teamto sue the state. The Supreme Court ruled and required the state to providelegal education to black students. In the Sweat v Painter case, Herman Sweatapplied to the University of Texas’ “white” law school and was not admittedbecause a “black” school already existed but this school was underfunded and swiftlyput together.
As the case was brought before the Supreme Court, the Courtagreed with him that both the “black” and “white” law schools were not equaland required for the University law school to admit Sweat. During 1949, GeorgeMcLaurin was admitted to the University of Oklahoma’s doctoral program but wasrequired to be apart from his fellow white students at all times, which extremelyaffected his academic life and eventually went on to sue to stop this practice.The McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents of Higher Education went before theSupreme Court in 1950 and decided that it was unconstitutional and interferedwith his ability to learn his profession and ordered to stop immediately. During the early 1950s, the U.S.Supreme Court heard five separate cases that brought up the issue ofsegregation in public schools. The Brown v.
Board of Education consisted of Bollingv. Sharpe, Davis v. Board of Education of Prince Edward County, Briggs v.Elliot, Brown v.
Board of Education of Topeka, and Gebhart v. Belton. Allplaintiffs starting from the Gaines case on, all hired Thurgood Marshall andNAACP defense team to handle their cases. In 1952, the consolidated cases underthe Brown v. Board of Education came before the Supreme Court.
Marshall arguedthat the segregated school systems were constitutionally unequal and itviolated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Separatebut Equal doctrine that came after the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, allowed forsegregated facilities as long as they were equal to white schools. Finally, onMay 14, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, 9-0, that separate but equalfacilities were unequal and violated the Equal Protection Clause of theFourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren stated, “The Court also heldthat the segregation of public education based on race instilled a sense ofinferiority that had a hugely detrimental effect on the education and personalgrowth of African American children.” When you have a segregated school, youare tipping the scale to favor one race over another just because of the colorof their skin. All these cases played a pivotalrole in fighting for equal and quality education that everyone is provided today.If it wasn’t for Homer Plessy refusing to give up his seat on the train on June7, 1892 and fighting his case in court, organizations would not have beenfounded to gain support to abolish Jim Crow laws and other segregation laws.
ThurgoodMarshall was the head of the NAACP legal group and argued all the segregationcases starting from the Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada and on. Marshallbelieved that all schools should be created equal and every student should havethe right to be admitted to any school of their choosing without being rejectedbased on their race. Marshall was successful in all of his previous casesleading up to the Brown v. Board of Education case and kept raising the issueof segregated schools were not equal and in violation of the FourteenthAmendment.
All Justices of the Supreme Court came to an agreement that publicschool segregation was unconstitutional. Without these cases being heard by theSupreme Court, we may still have segregated schools today.