Plessy vs. Ferguson vs. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas Marvin Ridge High School
Keywords: Constitution, amendments, 14th amendment, 13th amendment, segregation, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, Supreme Court, Jim Crow laws
In our country’s history, the Supreme Court has overridden its past decisions only ten times. The most important of these overturned decisions are the rulings the Supreme Court made in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case and the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. These are arguably the two most important court cases in our nation’s history. Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas had almost exact opposite consequences. While the Plessy vs. Ferguson case established the doctrine of “separate but equal” and allowed for acts such as the Jim Crow laws to pass, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas not only abolished the doctrine of “separate but equal”, but it also played a major role in ending segregation by strengthening the civil rights movement.
Homer Plessy, a Louisiana resident, was light colored, but he had a black great-grandfather, which by law, made him black. Plessy lived in Louisiana. In Louisiana, there was a legislation in place that required every railway to have different railcars, one for whites, and one for colored races. Plessy sat in the white car. When a white passenger boarded the train, Plessy was told to give up his seat. When he refused, a detective put him in jail. Plessy pleaded innocent, but was convicted. Plessy and his lawyer appealed to the federal district courts. The district court upheld the decision of the lower courts. Plessy then appealed to the Supreme Court.
Linda Brown had to walk six blocks every day to ride her bus, which would take her 1 mile away to a segregated black school. Her white friends, however, went to a “white” school only about seven blocks away. Linda Brown’s father, Oliver Brown, enrolled her in the “white” school, Sumner School, but she was not accepted into the school on basis of her race. Her father became very mad and with the parents of twenty other colored children, filed a class action lawsuit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. He eventually appealed to the Supreme Court.
After Homer Plessy appealed to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court evaluated the case, and came to a 7-1 discussion against Plessy (Justice David Josiah did not participate because of the death of his daughter). In his majority opinion, Justice Brown wrote, “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.” Justice Brown is stating that the 14th Amendment says that all races are equal, but it does not prevent separating the facilities and services provided to each race. Any person from any race who believes his race is inferior to others because of segregation is wrong. The facilities were separate, but they were supposedly equal. This however, was not the case. While the Supreme Court could find no difference between the “black” car and the “white” car, many segregated facilities were not equal in the slightest sense. Justice John Marshall Harlan, the only justice who disagreed, wrote a strong dissent. In his dissent, he said that this case would be infamous.
The Supreme Court considered Brown’s case very carefully. It was interesting to see how time changed the justices’ views. At first, only a few justices agreed to desegregate schools and other facilities. However, after a few weeks, Chief Justice Earl Warren called a convening of the Supreme Court justices. He gave a speech; a very famous speech. Warren came up with a simple argument:...
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