The Supreme Court and African American Civil Rights

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 31-05-17 15:34
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  • The Supreme Court (SC) and African American (AA) Civil Rights
    • Court as barrier
      • United States v. Harris
        • 1883
        • SP ruled Civil Rights Act of 1875  unconstitutional
        • Held private discrimination did not fall under federal discrimination
      • Wilkins v. Mississippi
        • 1898
        • Court declared discriminatory voter registration laws were not unconstitutional
        • No specific mention of race in voting qualifications
        • Technically true, although it is obvious intention of court was to disenfranchise AAs
      • Plessy v. Ferguson
        • 1896
        • Whole development of discrimination encouraged by decision
        • Ruled 'Separation' did not imply any inferior treatment of people of different race or colour
        • Idea of 'separate but equal' enshrined in legal ruling
        • In practice, facilities, public and private - AA schools always of lower quality
    • Plessy v. Ferguson
      • 1890
        • Louisiana passed a Jim Crow law segregating railway transport
      • 1892
        • Homer Plessy, AA, challenged law and travelled in whites-only railway carriage
      • Punished in New Orleans court by Judge Ferguson
      • Appealed to US SC
      • Ruled 7 to 1 Louisiana was not going against constitution by segregation
      • Established legal basis for segregation laws
    • Court as a promoter of civil rights
      • Gradual change in legal rulings from position held between 1890 and 1944 marked a change in attitudes of civil rights
      • Smith v. Allwright
        • 1944
        • Led to ruling it was unconstitutional for black voters to be  excluded from party primary voting
        • More radical decision in 1954 was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling segregation was illegal
      • Brown v. Topeka Board of Education
        • Group of parents with help of National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
        • Sued Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas
        • For not providing appropriate education
          • Sued Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas
        • Leader, Oliver Brown, said daughter Linda had to walk a mile to segregated school when white school much nearer
        • District Court ruled against them, quoting Plessy v. Ferguson
        • NAACP lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, took case to SC
          • Ruled in favour of Brown in May 1954
            • Ended legal basis for segregation by unanimous court decision
        • Most significant federal intervention in civil rights since Congressional Reconstruction
        • Like Congressional Reconstruction, led to violence and protests in South
      • Brown v. Topeka required federal use of federal armed forces to enforce and it greatly encouraged political participation by AAs and political organisation
        • Boynton v. Virginia in 1960 confirmed that segregation on interstate (between different states) bus transportation was unconstitutional, giving rise to Freedom Rides
        • The court maintained momentum of change in Alexander v. Holmes County in 1969, insisting on more rapid desegregation of schools
        • Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenberg Board of Education in 1971 approved plans for enforced desegregation by busing children from white suburbs into inner-city areas with more black children
        • Griggs v. Duke Power Company
          • 1971
          • Court protected AAs from implicit discrimination by firms who insisted on high school diploma qualifications for jobs which did not really need them.
          • Many AAs did not have these qualifications but were capable of doing work so were losing higher paid jobs to white workers
    • High points of court's importance came in 1896, in giving legal backing to segregation, and in 1956, in giving backing to integration

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