Years before Brown v. Board of Education, desegregation entered higher education

John A. Tures is Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be contacted at [email protected] His Twitter account is John Tures2.

Schoolchildren are required to study, or at least memorize, the Plessy v. Ferguson case and the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

Almost completely ignored is how the Supreme Court adopted the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine with respect to colleges and universities, with landmark decisions years earlier than the famous Brown case of 1954. We are approaching of the anniversary when several were decided, June 5, 1950.

You may be surprised to learn that the only dissident on the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson who supported Louisiana’s segregationist wagon policy was Judge John Marshall Harlan, one of the court’s only southerners, a former Kentucky slaveholder and ex-opponent of the 13th Amendment.

But Jim Crow’s unjust laws and cruel opposition to Reconstruction changed him. Harlan, who correctly predicted it would be the worst decision since the Dred Scott case, argued that this kind of state discrimination against personal freedom would never end.

“Further, if this statute of Louisiana conforms to the personal liberty of citizens, why can the state not require the separation in railroad cars of native and naturalized citizens of the United States, or of Protestants and Roman Catholics? he wrote in his famous dissent. If you can discriminate against race, you can discriminate against any aspect of a human trait or choice.

But the freedom push against discrimination had its benefits, as the FDR executive decree went against any discrimination in the defense industry, and Truman disbanded the military, a year before Jackie Robinson n ‘get their right to be treated equally in baseball, which Democratic Party critics will deny you as they rail against the running Dixiecrats.

And then there is Sipuel c. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma in 1948. Ada Lois Sipuel, the daughter of a minister, challenged the segregationist policies of Oklahoma when she applied for admission to the University of Oklahoma law school, the only one funded by the United States. state taxpayers. Just four days after the arguments, the Supreme Court (charged with people appointed by Roosevelt and Truman) ruled that Oklahoma must provide instructions to blacks and whites, repealing the “all white” state rules.

John Paul Stevens (a Ford candidate, confirmed by Congress to the Supreme Court in the 1970s) observed that Ada Sipuel was “not only an excellent student, but she was well received by her classmates who disagreed with the policy of exclusion that the state had attempted in vain. defend, ”showing that the students were more respectful than the opportunistic state politicians who promoted segregation in a play for the votes.

Two years later, the Supreme Court also ruled twice against the so-called “separate but equal” laws on two occasions. In McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, the court heard that Oklahoma had admitted George W. McLaurin to law school “but provided him with separate facilities, including a special table in the cafeteria, a designated desk in the library, an office right at the outside the classroom door and sometimes even made him eat at different times from other students.

The Supreme Court has rightly shown that Oklahoma focuses more on separation than equality. That same day of June 5, the court demonstrated in Sweatt v. Painter that the hastily built law school for black students was sorely lacking in resources in terms of faculty, law library volumes, facilities, and that Herman Marion Sweatt deserved admission to the law school of the ‘University of Texas.

While there is nothing wrong with studying the Brown case, other education cases also deserve analysis, as they have shown that states that promised “separate but equal” could not even provide anything. something close to “equal”. These cases, many of which were supported by Thurgood Marshall, paved the way for the more well-known Brown case of 1954.

John A. Tures is Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be contacted at [email protected]. His Twitter account is John Tures2.

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