I. "Our constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” – Justice John Harlan, in his dissenting opinion in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. (History of Brown v. Board of Education) The US Supreme Court has evolved to promote new personal civil rights for African-Americans, ultimately creating a more racially equal society.
II. The first way that the Supreme Court has promoted personal civil rights is its decisions relating to school segregation.
a. Under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Supreme Court consistently upheld the rights of African-American students who faced discrimination when pursuing their education.
i. In 1950, the Court ruled that universities could not force black students to eat meals separately from white students in McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents. (History of Brown v. Board of Education)
ii. In 1954, the Court unanimously ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education. (History of Brown v. Board of Education)
iii. The Brown decision reversed the “separate but equal” doctrine set forth in a previous 1896 decision, Plessy v. Ferguson. (Law and African Americans: After the Civil War)
b. After the Brown decision, a policy emerged in the South known as “massive resistance”, its sole purpose being to delay or reverse school desegregation. (Massive Resistance)
i. Led by Virginia Senator Harry Byrd, the massive resistance movement espoused the “Southern Manifesto”, which, in part, insinuated that states had the right to segregate schools. (Massive Resistance)
ii. In 1958, Byrd called for Virginia schools to be closed rather than integrated. (Massive Resistance)
c. In its decisions about integrated education, the Supreme Court made it clear that segregation had no place in the United States, legally nor morally. Contrastingly, the massive resistance movement’s rhetoric is largely made up of a “because we can” attitude; the movement fails to consider the moral inequity of segregation. Ultimately, the Supreme Court evolved to create a more racially equal society.
III. Another way that the Supreme Court has promoted personal civil rights is a 1967 decision on race and marriage rights.
a. In the case Loving v. Virginia, the Court unanimously ruled that Virginia’s miscegenation law forbidding interracial couples from marrying was unconstitutional. (Segregation and Desegregation)
i. In 1958, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving were married in Washington, DC. They then moved to Virginia, where their marriage was then considered illegal. (Richard Perry LOVING Et Ux., Appellants, v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA)
ii. In court, the couple pleaded guilty to violating Virginia’s miscegenation law, and was ordered to leave the state and not return for 25 years. (Richard Perry LOVING Et Ux., Appellants, v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA)
iii. The Lovings appealed this decision, and the Supreme Court...