1868 marked a proud year for African Americans with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to Constitution. It proclaimed that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”1 This essentially color blinded government, and granted all citizens (a category which finally included African Americans) what is described in the document as indisputable equality.
While this was a milestone in the progress for Black rights, this seemingly problem-solving legislation for former slaves did not prevent future hardships by any means. Efforts were made in the southern states to keep blacks from reaping the benefits given to them by the Fourteenth Amendment by maintaining blacks’ position at the bottom of the social hierarchy thus keeping the idea of slavery alive without actually keeping slavery alive. An example of this is the 1876 Jim Crow Laws which called for the organization of separate restrooms, waiting facilities, restaurants, prisons, schools and textbooks, militia, and transportation. It also denied intermarriage, among many other hindrances inflicted by this legislation. 2
While Jim Crow was blatantly incongruent with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the full benefits of citizenry, it was justified by the Plessy vs. Ferguson Case of 1896 in which the Supreme Court upheld Louisiana’s Separate Car Act, requiring racially segregated railroad facilities, under the condition that such facilities were equal. This “separate but equal” doctrine was quickly, and legally, applied to almost all aspects of public life. However, these separate facilities were hardly equal. This ruling remained untouched until a new pivotal Supreme Court case struck it down fifty eight years later, igniting long-awaited progress for suffering African Americans.
The 1954 court case, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruled that Linda Brown, a black student who was denied admission into her local elementary school on the basis of her race, was in fact a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. A unanimous court decision broke the long tradition of de jure segregation riding on the justification of “separate but equal” facilities. It was Chief Justice Earl Warren’s ruling that finally shed light on the fact that “Separate Educational facilities [were] inherently unequal” and that it resulted in the “deprived protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
This crucial decision did not go over smoothly with all Americans. Rather, it heightened tensions and conflicting opinions in the United States. This is exemplified through the Declaration of the Ninety-Six Southern Congressmen’s argument, which stated that Brown vs. Board of Education represented “a clear abuse of judicial power” in that it...