CASE ANALYSIS: BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION

Racial segregation is the segregation or separation of facilities and services including basic health care, education, employment, transportation etc on basis of race. Historically, racial separation could be seen all over he world. In some nations it was legally enforced while in some there was social discrimination on the basis of race but there were no specific laws that regulated or enforced such segregation.

Before 1964, there were social and legally enforced segregation laws in America. African-Americans or Blacks were separated from the Whites in terms of education, jobs, marriage, housing and so on. The Black Americans were discriminated and were subject of hate crimes. The laws which enforced segregation were known as Jim Crow Laws.

During the Jim Crow era, in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, these segregation was were challenged but the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the legality of Jim Crow laws.

The first major step towards desegregation was the U.S Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, where the Court declared Supreme Court’s earlier precedent ‘separate but equal’ as unconstitutional.

Facts of the case:

  1. In the late 1940’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) opposed the segregated education system in the US.
  2. During this time, many African-Americans tried to enroll their children in all white public schools but they were refused the admission. Oliver Brown was the parent of one such child.
  3. NAACP filed a class-action suit, where it claimed that separate but equal doctrine was against the 14th Amendment and that it was unconstitutional.
  4. NAACP argued that this doctrine puts African-Americans in an inferior position than White Americans and that segregation of schools is discriminatory and against the Constitution.
  5. Sir Thurgood Marshall, the attorney for this case, argues this case on December 9, 1952.
  6. This case was argued again on December 8, 1953, to address whether the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment would have understood it to be inconsistent with the racial segregation in public schools.
  7. In 1954, the Court gave its landmark decision, where it rules that racial segregation in public schools is against the Fourteenth Amendment.

FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT OF THE US CONSTITUTION

The fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of United State states-

  • Every person born in any state of the US is citizen of that state as well as citizen of the United States of America.
  • No state shall deprive citizens of any privilege that other citizens had,
  • No state shall deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of laws.
  • No state shall deny any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

The main purpose for enacting the fourteenth amendment was to ensure that all citizens of the US, whether Blacks or Whites, were treated as equals and that they had equal rights and opportunities. When the Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, many southern states refused to rectify it. However, the Congress put these under military rule and sent soldiers to see whether former slaves or Blacks had the same rights as White people. During this time freedman had same rights as others. They had the right to vote, hold political office, sit on juries and even sue whites.

However in 1800’s these Southern states started making laws as opposed to the 14th amendment and which discriminated the blacks and put white Americans at a superior position.  It was during this era that Jim Crow laws were passed.

SEPARATE BUT EQUAL DOCTRINE

According to ‘separate but equal doctrine’, segregation of white Americans and blacks or other minorities is not unconstitutional if both these groups have equivalent rights and are provided with equivalent facilities and services.

This doctrine was challenged in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The main question in this case was whether ‘separate but equal facilities’ for each race discriminate against either?

In this case, the Court upheld the constitutionality of this doctrine and ruled that this doctrine was not discriminatory against blacks. The Court also held that segregation would only result for good and reasonable causes.

BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION- COURTS’ DECISION

In this case, the Kansas lower agreed that segregation was discriminatory and was harmful for black children. But the district court that schools for black children had same facilities as that of school for white children and so white schools could refuse to admit black children in their schools. The district court upheld the validity of segregation in schools.

In this case, the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice Earl Warren arrived at unanimous decision that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional and against the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Warren stated that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.”

Because segregation in schools was inherently unequal, the decision given in Plessy was overturned.

AFTERMATH

While the Court’s decision in this case was accepted by most Americans, the Southerners denounced the Court’s decision. Many American’s viewed it as ‘ day of catastrophe’.

No doubt that the Court’s decision I this case was a landmark and the first major step towards desegregation, but it was confined to desegregation in case of public schools only. In did put an end to segregation in other areas.

Also, the Court did not give a specific date for the enforcement of its decision.

The Warren Court had taken up this case again in 1955 known as the Brown II. The Court held that it was up to the states that when and how would integrate schools, however, all the necessary steps must be taken to do it speedily.

REFERENCE :

  1. Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Board_of_Education
  2. FindLaw- https://supreme.findlaw.com/supreme-court-insights/understanding-brown-v–board-of-education–a-case-summary.html
  3. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/teachers/lesson_plans/pdfs/unit11_1.pdf
  4. Britannica- https://www.britannica.com/event/Brown-v-Board-of-Education-of-Topeka

Aishwarya Says:

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