Segregation and the US Supreme Court
Segregation is the separation of service provision, facilities, employment and other opportunities such as education, housing, transportation and employment along ethnical or racial backgrounds. In United States the concept refers to the segregation of Black Americans from the whites. Segregation was very common during the Jim Crow period. Segregation through racial lines was a legal thing in US since the Civil War period all the way to the civil rights period in 1964.
The beginning of the end of the segregation laws began in 1954 when the Supreme Court of America overruled racial segregation in schools, restaurants and in public utilities. During the Jim Crow era there were rules that were known as black codes which were very common in the South. The southern whites used these rules to force the blacks to stay in rural areas where they had nothing else to do apart from turning to farming. The Supreme Court was very vibrant in fighting these rules in the 20th century and this research paper will try to look at what exactly the Supreme Court was doing in fighting the segregation laws.
The history of segregation dates back to 1870s when the 15th constitutional amendment was made so that all Americans would get equal voting chances, and again in 1875 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. The southerners were not pleased by the idea of giving the blacks the right to vote and in order to ensure that this did not happen, they resorted to violence against them under a secret organization known as the Klu Klux Klan. The group terrorized and humiliated black politicians who were fighting for the African Americans’ rights.
Many African Americans were lynched during this time in fact it was the joy of the whites to see blacks being lynched. All they wanted was to create a second race that would be inferior to them. (Hill 86) According to Hill (92), the black codes were a tool that was used by the whites to suppress African Americans so that their status quo would remain The codes prevented the black people from advancing themselves and were used by the whites in serving their selfish agendas such as rebuilding the South after it was destroyed by the civil war and especially the areas that were not taken care of during the reconstruction period.
Segregation prior to 1877 was not very powerful but from this period it gained momentum because the Southern Democratic Party won in the elections that were held. The party enforced the existing segregation laws and introduced even others. The telephone charges for the blacks were higher than those for the whites and the poll tax fro all blacks was introduced. These laws varied from state to state for example, in Arkansas there were race tracks for the whites and for the blacks, in Oklahoma the telephone booth were segregated and in Florida, no text book that had been used by a black child would be re-used by a white kid.
In all states, the blacks were not allowed to intermarry with the whites. By the time the World War I broke, the whole of America was completely segregated. (Hill 96-102) For all this time the African Americans were trying to look for ways through which they would reverse the situation but their efforts were undermined by the terrorist groups for the whites such as the Klu Klux Klan.
The Black Americans tried to fight segregation through the ballot box, courts and through organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Another method that was used in fighting segregation by the blacks was the constant migration of the African Americans from the southern states to the North and West where there were better job opportunities, better facilities and less racism. They also held meetings where they would air their grievances and also wrote some publications such as Justice and Jurisprudence.
It is the NCAAP that started to challenge segregation laws in courts and it succeeded in winning a number of cases for instance, the case between Guinn and US in 1915 where it was declared unconstitutional for illiterate people to be asked to prove if their grandfathers voted in the elections so that they would be allowed to vote. NAACP also challenged the segregation law that separated the living areas between those of the blacks and for the whites.
The supreme court of America also ruled out Kentucky’s law that emphasized the separation of living areas and termed it as unconstitutional in 1917. In another case Moore vs. Dempsey in 1923, the NCAAP challenged the law that was used in denying the blacks from becoming members of the jury where the Supreme Court termed it as unconstitutional. In 1938 in a case Gaines vs. Canada, the Supreme Court forced Missouri to either allow the blacks to attend the same law school with the whites or build them another school of law. (Klarman 548)
According to Tackach (51), the victory that was achieved by the NAACP acted as a short in the arm in fighting for the blacks’ rights. After the Second World War, more and more attacks geared towards segregation laws were made and they succeeded in transforming the American society. There are various factors that favored this rapid transformation and one of them was the great migration of the blacks from the South to the North and to the West, the cultural and social issues related to the wars and the change in the nature of the American polities.
The move to the north weakened the economic stability of the South as it depended on the work out put of the blacks. This movement enabled the blacks to settle in urban areas both in the South and in the North. The second factor is the change in the nature of politics which occurred due to the effects of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s government changed the way it treated the blacks and came with policies that would ensure that all people had equal job opportunities, prosperity and justice.
The third one was social and cultural factor; the Americans were shocked by what had happened in Germany during the holocaust and thus were forced to change the way they viewed and treated the black Americans. (Smitha Frank) Although these methods reduced the intensity of segregation none other than the court proceedings was more effective. The foundation for the outlawing of all segregation laws was laid in the 1940s for example; it is during this time in the case Smith vs. All Wright that the law that prevented the blacks from participating in primary elections was banned.
Again in the period between 1945 and 50, segregation laws in railway transport and in sponsored schools were banned. (Klarman 78-95) According to Miller (78) the major breakthrough was made in 1954 when racial segregation in all public schools in the case Brown vs. Board of education was outlawed. The court said that the policy of separate but equal had no place in the education sector and this signaled the death of the segregation laws. Another milestone was made in 1956 when the Supreme Court repealed the segregation law on public buses that required all the blacks to give seats to the whites.
This was after the Montgomery saga where a black American, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white passenger something that culminated into a boycott against the public buses. (Miller J. 67-72) Due to the relentless efforts of the civil rights movement, the civil rights were passed by the US congress in 1964. In the following year, another act against the use of literacy test on blacks before they would be allowed to vote was passed. These laws and acts positively transformed the lives of black Americans and by 1990s they would even serve in the Congress, House of Representative, in the Jury and in the Supreme Courts.
Though segregation in America is an outlawed thing, it still exists but on a mild level and this is proved by the fact that many blacks live in the ghettos where they live in penury and the eruption of the 1990s riots that were attributed to poverty. (Tackach, J. 58) To conclude this research paper, it could be said that the success that was made in fighting the segregation laws had come along way for since the American Civil War period all the way to the civil rights time, African Americans had been fighting this menace.
Were it not for the whites’ terrorist groups like the Klu Klux Klan and others, segregation laws would not have lasted for all that time and would have ended long before the civil rights era. The success that was made by the African American in ending segregation was due to the willingness of the Supreme Court to exercise justice for all. It overruled most of the laws that suppressed the blacks such as segregation laws in living places, in public buses and schools.