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Racial Cases

There are many court cases discriminating towards African Americans that have occurred throughout the United States history. Many of these cases had a major impact on the daily lives of blacks and brought the civil right movement to a start.

One of these cases were Dred Scott v. Sandford. Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri. From 1833 to 1843, Scott lived in Illinois, which is a free state, and in an area of the Louisiana Territory, where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. Scott then brought a new suit in federal court. Scott s master maintained that no pureblooded Negro of African descent and the descendants of slaves could be a citizen in a sense of article III of the constitution

After being tried in Missouri Sate courts and in a federal circuit court, this case went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856. The following year, the court rejected Scott s claim. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice Taney concluded that blacks, even when free, could never become citizens of the United States and did not have a right to sue in federal courts. Taney also declared that Congress lacked the power to prohibit slavery in federal territories, a ruling that invalidated the part of the Missouri Compromise that banned slavery in the western territories.

Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held the legality of racial segregation. At the time of the ruling, segregation between blacks and whites already existed in most schools, restaurants, and other public facilities in the American South. In the Court decision, the Supreme Court ruled that such segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This amendment, ratified in 1868, provides equal protection of the law to all U.S. citizens, regardless of race. The court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was legal as long as the separate facilities for blacks and whites were equal. This separate but equal doctrine was only partially executed after the decision. Railroad cars, schools, and other public facilities in the South were made separate, but they were not made equal. The Plessy decision set the precedent that separate facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were equal which was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life.

In 1896 the Supreme Court made the famous Plessy vs. Ferguson decision which found that the “separate but equal” doctrine regarding public facilities did not violate the constitutional rights of blacks. This decision essentially legally justified segregation. However, in 1954, several black leaders got behind the cause of a little girl named Linda Brown who was not allowed to attend a nearby school because she was black. With the help of the NAACP, Linda Brown’s supporters eventually got her case to the Supreme Court. The case was known as Brown vs. Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall, a lawyer and civil rights leader who eventually became the first black member of the Supreme Court, argued the case for Brown. The Supreme Court decided unanimously that the “separate but equal doctrine” violated black children’s 14th amendment rights. The groundbreaking decision led to the integration of schools throughout the country, a step that many people had been working diligently to bring about. This decision in favor of integration is one of the most important events in American civil rights.

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