24th International Conference on Teaching and Learning
6: Prequel to the Little Rock Nine:
Professor John Taylor & Professor Joseph Langat
On September 25, 2017 “The Little Rock Nine (now Eight)” will assemble again in Little Rock, Arkansas to celebrate 60 years after the historic day in civil rights history. FSCJ Professor, John Taylor, was there in 1957. Volumes 1 through 5 over the previous five conferences have told many stories of the historic year at Central in 1957-58. Volume 6 will focus on the 60 years leading up to this day when segregation barrier was finally broken across the 12 state South and five border states in the United States. One man, Thurgood Marshall, risked his life for over 20 years until 1954’s Supreme Court Decision: Brown v Board of Education changed the law of the land which created the “Separate But Equal Doctrine” (Plessy v Ferguson) in 1896.
On September 25, 2017 “The Little Rock Nine (now Eight)” will assemble again in Little Rock, Arkansas to celebrate 60 years after the historic day in civil rights history when nine African American children integrated the first all white high school, Little Rock Central High School. FSCJ Professor, John Taylor, was there in 1957 as a 16 year old junior. Volumes 1 through 5 over the previous five conferences have told many stories of the historic year at Central in 1957-58 and the following year, 1958-59 (The Lost Class of 59). Volume 6 will focus on the 60 years leading up to this day when segregation barrier was finally broken across the 12 state South and five border states in the United States through the historic Supreme Court decision in 1954: Brown v Board of Education.
For much of the sixty years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation. This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment ("no State shall... deny to any person... the equal protection of the laws.").
One man, Thurgood Marshall, risked his life for over 20 years to fight for equal rights before the days of the civil rights icon such as Martin Luther King. He was the lead lawyer for the NAACP who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court. No one in the Negro community had to say his last name during the 1930s and 1940s, just “Thurgood” is coming. He was known as “Mr. Civil Rights”. The story of his life will be presented through a selection of clips from four major videos.
First, the 1991 Hollywood movie made for HBO as a mini series: “Separate But Equal” starring Sydney Poitier as Thurgood and Burt Landcaster as the famous lawyer, John W. Davis, who argued for segregation. The film focuses on the South Carolina case of the five cases (Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Washington DC) under the umbrella of Brown v Board. It started as a simple case with the black citizens of Clardon County wanting just one school bus for the ‘colored’ children where the white children were transported by 30 buses, yet the black student population outnumbered the white students 97 to 3.
It went from begging for crumbs to not being satisfied equal facilities, nor school busing, but to declare segregation illegal. It was proven that separating black children from others solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law tends to impede the educational and mental development of black children and deprives them of some of the benefits they would receive in an integrated school system. Today, this 22 year old film is not available in DVD, only VHS tape.
The second film is the 2004 documentary “With All Deliberate Speed” which focus of those four words which allowed the Southern States to delay integration or allow only token integration for the nearly 20 years after Brown.
The third film is a 2005 production to celebrate the 50 years after Brown: Biography – Thurgood Marshall: Justice for All. This program features interviews with family, scholars, and NAACP figures who unanimously portray Marshall as a tireless crusader, charismatic leader, and ebullient, fun-loving friend. President Lyndon Johnson, who nominated him to the Supreme Court, admired Marshall mightily and considered him a "great pal." Throughout a lifetime that spanned nearly a century, Marshall achieved social change, decade by decade, until his retirement from the Supreme Court in 1993 at the age of 85.
The fourth video produced in 2011 is a one man Broadway stage production: Thurgood. Thurgood is the dazzling fusion of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and actor Laurence Fishburne. This filming of Fishburne's one-man Broadway show is half charming character portrait, half wry but galvanizing history lesson. Growing up in the era of racist Jim Crow laws, Marshall had initial ambitions to be a dentist, but constant exposure to injustice led him to the law. The stage production makes use of lighting effects, sound effects, and projections, but these are mere window-dressing; this powerful story is driven by Fishburne, whose resonant voice, subtle sideways looks, deep humor, and sheer intelligence ably convey the mind of one of the great American jurists. It is a must to own and worth the time to show in history and political science classes..
For the Little Rock Nine in 1957-58 and after, they met many times with Thurgood Marshall, who aided the NAACP lawyers in Arkansas who foght the desegregation battles with the Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, through the National Legal Defense Fund.
Brown v. Board of Education –
Summary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954).
This case is a consolidation of several different cases from Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. Several black children (through their legal representatives, Ps) sought admission to public schools that required or permitted segregation based on race. The plaintiffs alleged that segregation was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In all but one case, a three judge federal district court cited Plessy v. Ferguson in denying relief under the “separate but equal” doctrine. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs contended that segregated schools were not and could not be made equal and that they were therefore deprived of equal protection of the laws.
Holding and Rule (Warren)
Segregation of children in the public schools solely on the basis of race denies to black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, even though the physical facilities and other may be equal. Education in public schools is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
The question presented in these cases must be determined not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the role of public education in American life today. The separate but equal doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, which applied to transportation, has no place in the field of public education.
Separating black children from others solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law tends to impede the educational and mental development of black children and deprives them of some of the benefits they would receive in an integrated school system. Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority and any language to the contrary in Plessy v. Ferguson is rejected.
Judgment for the plaintiffs.
See Allen v. Wright for a constitutional law case brief involving an issue of whether the parents of black children had standing to bring claims for declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the tax-exempt status of segregated private schools.
Seven of the LR 9 sit on the U.S. Supreme Court Steps with Thurgood Marshall
Plessy v. Ferguson – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138, 41 L. Ed. 256 (1896).
Plessy (P) attempted to sit in an all-white railroad car. After refusing to sit in the black railway carriage car, Plessy was arrested for violating an 1890 Louisiana statute that provided for segregated “separate but equal” railroad accommodations. Those using facilities not designated for their race were criminally liable under the statute.
At trial with Justice John H. Ferguson (D) presiding, Plessy was found guilty on the grounds that the law was a reasonable exercise of the state’s police powers based upon custom, usage, and tradition in the state. Plessy filed a petition for writs of prohibition and certiorari in the Supreme Court of Louisiana against Ferguson, asserting that segregation stigmatized blacks and stamped them with a badge of inferiority in violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments. The court found for Ferguson and the Supreme Court granted cert.
Holding and Rule (Brown)
Thirteenth Amendment issue
The statute does not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime. Slavery implies involuntary servitude and a state of bondage. The Thirteenth Amendment however was regarded as insufficient to protect former slaves from certain laws which had been enacted in the south which imposed upon them onerous disabilities and burdens and curtailed their rights in the pursuit of life, liberty and property to such an extent that their freedom was of little value; and that the Fourteenth Amendment was devised to meet this exigency.
Fourteenth Amendment Issue
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are made citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside, and the States are forbidden from making or enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The proper construction of this amendment involves a question of exclusive privileges rather than race. Its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of former slaves, to give definitions of citizenship of the United States and of the States, and to protect the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States from hostile legislation of the states.
It was intended to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but it was intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting and even requiring their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race. Such laws have generally been recognized as within the scope of the states’ police powers. The most common instance involves the establishment of separate schools, which has been held to be a valid exercise of the legislative power even by courts of States where the political rights of blacks have been longest and most earnestly enforced.
Judgment for Ferguson (Plessy loses).
This case is often cited incorrectly as Plessey v. Ferguson.
This case was later overruled by Brown v. Board of Education. Justice Warren wrote the opinion for a unanimous court, holding that separate facilities which segregate based on race are inherently unequal.