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Analysis of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka On June 7, 1892 a man named Homer Adolph Plessy was arrested and jailed for refusing to leave the White section of an East Louisiana Railroad train. Although Plessy was only one-eighths black, under Louisiana law he was considered black and, therefore, required to sit in the Colored section. The punishment for breaking this law, the Separate Car Act, was a fine of twenty-five dollars or twenty days in jail. Plessy went to court and argued, in Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
The judge hearing the case was John Howard Ferguson, who had recently ruled that the Separate Car Act was unconstitutional if the train was traveling through different states. However, in Plessy's case, he decided that the state had the right to segregate the trains that operated in Louisiana only. Therefore, Plessy was found guilty. He, then, appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld Ferguson's decision. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of Plessy v.
Ferguson. Once again, Ferguson's decision was upheld and Plessy was found guilty. The Supreme Court decided that the Separate Car Act did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. This was too obvious for argument.
They, also, decided that it did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, which made the two races absolutely equal in the eyes of the law. It was decided that there was no violation of the constitution to separate the two races as long as they were equal (Cozzens). An eight-person majority decided the case, and the only Judge to disagree was Justice John Harlan who seemed to predict the future when he wrote: Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law... In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case... (Cozzens). The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as: restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools.
For sixty-four more years the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson set a powerful precedent and provided a strong basis for other judicial decisions that upheld segregation laws. Finally, in 1954, the United States Supreme Court struck down the separate but equal doctrine in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Cozzens). The question stands: why did the Supreme Court reverse its outlook after sixty-four years?
After the Civil War ended in 1865, the south was in chaos both economically and politically. The Reconstruction era that followed was a time of turmoil between the Radical Republicans and President Andrew Johnson. Both sides wanted to be able to deal with the South as they saw fit. The most complicated, and argued, issue of that time was what to do with the recently freed African Americans. Three amendments were soon added to the constitution, giving the slaves freedom, citizenship, the Bill of Rights and, for men, the right to vote. Eventually, by the nineteenth century white political control had returned to the South.
The Jim Crow laws segregated virtually every public place in the South. The uprising of the Ku Klux Klan, a secrete organization of whites who are against colored people, had most southern African Americans living in constant fear. Furthermore, by the late 1800 s most people, living in the North or West, stopped paying as much attention to the ongoing problems that southern blacks faced. Southern blacks began to steadily move to the bigger cities in the North, and by 1920 a million and a half African Americans resided in northern cities. Even in the north, the blacks had trouble with discrimination. Membership in the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, grew rapidly.
In the 1920 s, a section in New York known as Harlem became the center of Africa American culture. The Harlem Renaissance was born, and it earned the respect from the whites in America for the blacks. Eventually, though, Harlem turned into a ghetto for African Americans, and by the time the Great Depression hit in 1929 the Harlem Renaissance was non-existent. To make circumstances worst for African Americans, violence against them increased during this time as well with the second rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Finally in the 1940 s the situation for blacks began to improve, mostly because of World War II, which helped to unite all Americans. Almost a million African Americans served in the armed forces.
The NCAAP now had half a million members and was joined by the newly formed CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. In general, African Americans came into the postwar era expecting more equality than ever before. More than any other issue, education was the main focus of the demand for equality. By the 1950 s, the Supreme Court began to more deeply analyze all separate but equal cases more carefully to determine if situations were really equal.
Plessy v. Ferguson, and the doctrine of separate but equal, still held the basis for all cases. However, in several cases between the 1930 s and the 1950 s the Supreme Court ruled that the facilities for schooling were not equal for whites and blacks. The drawback was, though, that the Supreme Court was reluctant to decide any broad constitutional issues. Instead, they dealt only with individual cases and made their decisions as narrow as possible.
Eventually, the personnel of the Supreme Court began to change. In 1945 and 1949, Truman appointed four new justices. And after the Court began to hear the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, the conservative chief justice, Vinson, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Earl Warren, who was far more liberal, replaced Vinson.
Trends and events during the 1940 s and 1950 s began to lead most whites in the nation to becoming more supportive of African Americans. The Nazi Holocaust and the Cold War with the Soviet Union were two events that greatly influenced whites in America to be more aware of the democratic ideals of the United States. People began to feel ashamed for the way that most African Americans were treated. Many studies were done to try and prove that segregation was harmful to black children. A Professor of City College in New York performed one of the most famous studies. The Professor gave children both brown and pink dolls and asked them which dolls were good and which ones were bad.
An alarming majority of the children chose the brown dolls to be bad. His research was used by the NCAAP to help demonstrate the negative psychological effects that segregated schooling had on African American children. Oliver Brown was a black citizen of Topeka, Kansas in 1951. He was a World War II veteran, union member, and assistant pasture of his church. Browns oldest daughter, Linda, had to walk roughly six blocks from her house to get to her bus stop. A white elementary school was located only seven blocks in the other direction.
However, she was refused admittance into that school because of her race. Brown reported this problem to the NCAAP and became the first plaintiff in the suit against the Board of Education in Topeka. Brown, and other plaintiffs that followed in his footsteps, lost the case. The Kansas court ruled that the white and black schools were fairly equal. By 1952, five cases challenging the separate but equal doctrine were appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition to Kansas, plaintiffs from South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia all argued that racial segregation was unconstitutional.
They proposed that it violated the fourteenth amendment. The five cases were all heard together in 1952 and then reared in 1953. Finally, in 1954, the Supreme Court announced its first part of the decision declaring that racial segregation was unconstitutional. In May 1955, the Court gave the second part of its decision announcing that the desegregation process would take place on a flexible timetable.
The Supreme Court decision that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional was unanimous. For the first time in over sixty years the Court decided against the precedent of Plessy v. Ferguson. Before this point in time, courts had simply made decisions based on whether the facilities were equal or not.
They had never questioned if segregation, itself, was unconstitutional. All cases before the Supreme Court are argued in two steps: a written step and an oral step. In the written st...
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Research essay sample on Brown V Board Of Education