African American Civil Rights - Supreme Court

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1875: Civil Rights Act and Enforcement Acts

1876: SC ruled that Enforcement Acts were unconstitutional 

1882: SC ruled that 1875 Civil Rights Act (which attempted to ban formalised segregation) was unconstitutional 

Began SC's period of blocking civil rights laws

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1896: Plessy v. Ferguson

Brought about idea of "separate but equal facilities"

Said Jim Crow laws were constitutional if this was maintained

Jim Crow laws --> e.g. one preventing Homer Plessy sitting on 1st class carriage

In practice, facilities were not equal

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1865 - 1870: 13th, 14th, 15th Amendment

Prohibited slavery

Stated AAs should have equal protection under the law

Stated black men should be able to vote

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1873: Slaughterhouse Case

Set the precedent that states were responsible for ensuring most of a citizen's rights

Not federal government

Bad for racist states

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1898: Mississippi v. Williams

SC ruled that poll taxes + other such laws were legal + constituional

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1938: Gaines v Canada

Stated "separate but equal" facilities had to actually be equal 

Came about as result of Lloyd Gaines being denied entry to Uni of Mississippi because there were other states with black schools 

SC deemed this unconstitutional

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1944: Smith v. Allwright

SC ruled that white-only primaries were unconstitutional


Signalled movement towards people more positive about enfranchising AAs

In response, NAACP held voter registration drives:

By 1952: Black voting population in South = 1,000,000

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1950: Sweatt v. Painter, McLaurin v. Oklahoma Stat

Reinforced that separate but equal facilities had to actually be equal 

1950: Henderson vs. United States said that segregation in train restaurants was unconstitutional

Together, convinced NAACP that time had come to challenge "separate but equal" judgement

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1954, 1955: Brown v. Topeka, and Brown II

SC rules that schools should be desegregated 

Says that separate but equal is inherently unequal

Brown II attempts to say when schools should desegregate but is too vague

Did not set specific time

Many schools did not desegregate quickly 

Later rulings + laws forced schools to desegregate

However, white families moved children to private schools 

Ultimate desegregation was difficult

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January 1964: 24th Amendment

Abolishes poll tax (which stopped AAs voting)

Gave citizens right to elect representatives in national, state, local, and primary elections

Congress would enforce this + enact laws to do so 

Important: AAs in South faced discrimination + could not vote for officials who would help 

Counters Mississippi v. Williams (1898)

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1971: Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Educ

Stated that school districts could use bussing as legitimate way to ensure schools were desegregated

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1974: Millikien v. Bradley

Stopped court-ordered bussing between a majority white + majority black area in a district

Transition to principle that bussing only allowed when deliberate attempts at segregation

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1978: Regents of the University of California v. B

Alan Bakke - white student trying to get place at U of C

Won SC case saying he had been unfairly discriminated against and rejected because of race

Example of blacklash to affirmative action

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