Plessy And Brown Essay, Research Paper
Postbellum Blues for Blacks Colored people, mainly blacks, have traveled a long and winding road to gain civil equality with whites. That road has been filled with bumps, ditches, hills, potholes, and all forms of harsh weather, but just as the song says, “[They] shall carry on.” Many white people consider themselves to be the master race, which causes the suffering of other races.The first fight that blacks had to endure was overcoming slavery. Slavery began during the colonization period of America, and lasted for over two hundred years. Many political figures throughout America’s history fought for freedom for all blacks, but slavery ended only through war. The Civil War was initially fought for states’ rights, however during its course, the abolishment of slavery became another of Lincoln’s goals. The Civil War and the resulting Amendments resulted in major victories for Negro people. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery completely, following up on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed full civil rights to U.S. citizens no matter what race they may be; and the Fifteenth Amendment granted full voting rights to all citizens of the U.S. These Amendments failed to protect black citizens from the discrimination that many white supremacists had against Negroes from 1968 until 1954. After being freed from their masters bonds, many blacks were still persecuted by southerners, who continued to believe in white supremacy. The southerners used both legal and illegal methods to restrict the freedom and liberty of black folk. The Klu Klux Klan represents the white supremacists at their worst, killing black people and destroying their property. The first of the legal methods was the Black Codes, imposed upon Negroes so that many could be forced onto labor ranches for trifle matters. After the Black Codes, Southerners produced the Jim Crow laws, which provided a base for segregation. When these restrictive and limiting laws were banned, the Supreme Court upheld the southern view that segregation did not violate any of the related Constitutional Amendments. English derives segregation from the Latin root, grex, which means flock; thus to segregate means to separate from the flock. Religious groups and immigrants were among those who chose to separate themselves from others in order to clearly define their identities and cultures. Such examples are Little Italy in Chicago and New York and Chinatown in San Francisco. In more recent times, the first half of the twentieth century, segregation has been imposed upon people based on racial differences. The major start for segregation began in 1896 with the case known as Plessy v. Ferguson. Homer Plessy, a shoemaker, was of mixed decent, having seven-eighths white blood and one-eighth black; the African blood was not discernable in him upon sight. Plessy was also a citizen of the United States and a resident of Louisiana. On Tuesday, June 7, 1892, he purchased a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway from New Orleans to Covington. He took a seat among the area designated for white folks. Shortly after the train began its trip, the conductor asked Plessy if he was black, and Plessy replied with an affirmative. The conductor then told Plessy, under penalty of ejection and imprisonment, to move to a coach designated for non-whites. He refused and was taken off the train and arrested by a New Orleans police officer. The state district court charged and convicted Plessy with violating the statute of Louisiana, acts of 1890, which permitted segregation on a state level as long as the separated facilities were equal. Plessy filed a petition to the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the law; “Plessy had declined and refused to admit that he was in any sense of in any proportion a colored man” (Plessy v. Ferguson).Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court. “This case turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for white and colored races” (Plessy v. Ferguson). The Supreme Court adhered to the rules set forth by the statue of Louisiana, and found Plessy guilty for using the coach for the race to which he did not belong. According to the Court’s decision, segregation did not “[conflict] with [either] the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery, [or] the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits certain restrictive legislation on the part of the States” (Plessy v. Ferguson). Their reasoning being that “The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed black individuals “equality” but did not guarantee identity or community with white society” (Smithsonian, Medley). In the decade leading up to 1896, seven Justices had been replaced-”mostly by men who shared the increasingly prevalent belief that Reconstruction had largely failed and that blacks must fend for themselves. The only holdovers from Reconstruction times were from John Marshall Harlan” (Smithsonian, Medley). Plessy’s attorney Albion Tourgee estimated that one Justices would lean on Plessy’s side, three would be uncertain, and five frankly opposed. So Plessy didn’t have much hope going into the case, and even with the backing of the Comite, lost the case.
After Plessy, one by one the civil rights gains of the Reconstruction vanished along with the separate but equal doctrine of the case. “Louisiana called a constitutional convention in New Orleans to lay down a blueprint for white supremacy. Endorsed by Governor Foster, the delegates made it illegal to run an integrated school and allocated ‘whites only’ clauses, one being the ‘grandfather clause’ to keep blacks from voting. The chairman of the committee bluntly declared, ‘Our mission was to establish the supremacy of the white race’” (Smithsonian, Medley). Education also suffered because of the Plessy decision. While the legislation made things separate, schools hardly received equal treatment. The South spent very little money on black schools. “In New Orleans, the city school board did not open a public high school for blacks until 1917. Even then, black teachers were paid less than their white counterparts, and their pupil received secondhand books and supplies” (Smithsonian, Medley). The effects of Plessy v. Ferguson remained unchallenged until 1954.In 1954 the major battle of Dien Bien Phu took place in Indochina. The French were kicked out of their eastern province. However, in America, the major event of the year was the landmark Supreme Court Decision known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas) also known just as Brown v. Board of Education. The case brought before the court claimed that the segregation of white and Negro children in public schools solely on the basis of race denied Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment – even though the physical facilities and other tangible factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.The cases came to the Court from Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race sought the Court’s aid in obtaining admission to public schools in their community on a nonsegregated basis. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, the district courts denied relief to the plaintiffs on the “separate but equal” doctrine. In the Delaware case, the Supreme Court of Delaware adhered to the “separate but equal” doctrine but determined that Negro schools were substantially below white schools; so the court decided that segregation was unconstitutional and ordered that the plaintiffs be admitted to the white schools. The plaintiffs’ argument contends that segregated public schools were not equal and cannot be made equal. Judge Warren noted that “there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other tangible factors have been equalized.” Chief Justice Warren continued by saying, “our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education” (Brown v. Board of Education). The Court felt that separating white and colored children in public schools had a detrimental effect upon the colored children; that the policy of separating races implied the inferiority of the Negro group, and such a sense of inferiority affected the motivation of a child to learn. Thus the Supreme Court ruled that in the field of education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” did not apply because separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. Though the case only directly affected public education, the Brown decision was a major victory for all black people. It also helped to start the black movement for complete desegregation of public accommodations and full civil equality. One year after Brown, Rosa Parks prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Martin Luther Kings Jr. He took hold of the civil rights movement in 1957, and continued to fight for equality until his assassination in 1968. His most important action was leading civil rights protestors, including blacks and whites, on a march on Washington in 1963. He followed the march with his famous “I have a Dream” speech. The march helped to bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unlike the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which only guaranteed full voting rights to black citizens and banned any type of restrictions such as poll taxes, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted full civil equality to it citizens and completely eliminated segregation in the United States. Even with these laws and amendments protecting black rights, discrimination and prejudice still exist today, and sometimes they bring the worst out of people.Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education show how the attitude of people changes as time passes. Plessy set back the civil rights movement a great deal, but Brown led the movement to what it is today. Blacks have taken their falls and crashes, but they have not fallen against the oppression of white supremacists. Their fight stands strong, and will continue until they have gained full equality. That will only come when prejudice is erased from the minds of everyone.