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Lesson 1:

The Supreme Court and Civil Rights

1857: Dred Scott v. Sanford

*A slave by the name of Dred Scott sued his slave master U.S. Army Surgeon Dr. John Emerson for his freedom in a Missouri in 1946. *Scott sued on grounds that he and his wife had lived in a free territory for a time period. The case was dismissed due to lack of witnesses. Scott loss in the retrial as well. *In 1853, Scott sued his then current master John Sanford for his freedom. The case was federal due to Sanfords New York residence. Scott lost again, but was able to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dred Scott

1857: Dred Scott v. Sanford Cont.

*Scotts case was heard by the Supreme Court in 1857. *The Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott, declaring that under the Constitution Scott was his masters property. * The Supreme Court also ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it deprived slave-owners of their property.

Dred Scott

Class Discussion
How do you feel about the Supreme Courts decision to rule against Scott? Do you think the judges decision set precedent for cases that followed? If so, how? If not, why not?

1896: Plessy v. Ferguson

*In this important case, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law that required all public places in the state serve African Americans on a separate, but ostensibly equal accommodations from Whites. *The Supreme Court established the separate, but equal doctrine with the ruling. Thus making Jim Crow constitutional in states that adopted the philosophy.

*Jim Crow laws were sustained and in some many cases expanded based on the Supreme Court decision of separate, but equal.

Class Discussion
How do you think the Supreme Court came to the separate, but equal decision with Plessy v. Ferguson? Do you believe separate, but equal facilities would have been successful economically and socially if all resources were truly equal? Why or why not?

1923: Meyer v. Nebraska

*The state of Nebraska passed a law that banned the teaching of foreign languages in private schools. The law also banned the teaching of foreign language foe any grade below eight. *The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, stating that the law violated the fourteenth amendment. *This helped spark the Latino civil rights movement.

1938: Missouri ex el Gaines v. Canada

*An African American by the name of Lionel Gaines filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri after being denied admission into the University of Missouri Law School due to him being African American.

*The state of Missouri offered to pay for Gaines to attend another school out of state, but he refused.
*Gaines case was eventually bought up to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in Gaines favor, stating that the separate, but equal ruling required Gaines admittance into the university because the state could not provide an equal state alternative. *This case was the beginning of the NAACPs strategy to slowly eliminate the separate, but equal doctrine.

1950: Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

*In 1950, the Supreme Court heard the cases of Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents. The Supreme Court ruled that segregation of African American students in public law and graduate schools was unconstitutional. *These plaintiffs of the cases were represented by the NAACPs legal defense fund lawyers, led by Thurgood Marshall. *With these cases the NAACP began to devise a plan to force the court to declare the Supreme court to rule separate, but equal unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall

Class Discussion
Do you agree with the NAACPs strategy to chip away at the constitutionality of separate, but equal? Why or why not? Do you think the NAACP strategically focused on cases that affected future African American lawyers? Why or why not?

1954: Brown v. Board of Education

*In perhaps the most famous Supreme Court decision in its history, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. *The Supreme Court reached the decision with an unanimous vote, making its decision one of the biggest victories of the Civil Rights Movement. *One year later in Brown v. Board of Education II, the Supreme Court ruled that school systems should abolish segregation with a deliberate speed. This was interpreted in different ways in various states. Therefore schools desegregated at different paces.

Class Discussion
What impact does the Brown v. Board of Education ruling have on us today? Was the strategy to slowly chip away at the separate, but equal ruling successful based on all of the cases we have learned about? Why or why not? Do you think our schools are fully integrated today? Why or why not?