Custom Search

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Educational Discrimination Still A Problem In The South! Federal Funds & Segregation

A Century Of Racial Segregation In Education 1849-1950

After the Abolition of slavery in the United States, three Constitutional amendments were passed to grant newly freed African Americans legal status: the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth provided citizenship, and the Fifteenth guaranteed the right to vote. In spite of these amendments and civil rights acts to enforce the amendments, between 1873 and 1883 the Supreme Court handed down a series of decisions that virtually nullified the work of Congress during Reconstruction.

Regarded by many as second-class citizens, blacks were separated from whites by law and by private action in transportation, public accommodations, recreational facilities, prisons, armed forces, and schools in both Northern and Southern states. In 1896 the Supreme Court sanctioned legal separation of the races by its ruling in H.A. Plessy v. J.H. Ferguson, which held that separate but equal facilities did not violate the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment.

Beginning in 1909, a small group of activists organized and founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They waged a long struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation from American life. By the middle of the twentieth century their focus was on legal challenges to public-school segregation. Two major victories before the Supreme Court in 1950 led the NAACP toward a direct assault on Plessy and the so-called "separate-but-equal" doctrine.

Imprisoned for Teaching Free Blacks

The prohibition of education for African Americans had deep roots in American history. According to the 1847 Virginia Criminal Code: "Any white person who shall assemble with slaves, [or] free negroes . . . for the purpose of instructing them to read or write, . . .shall be punished by confinement in the jail . . . and by fine .

. ." Under this code, Margaret Douglass, of Norfolk, Virginia, a former slaveholder, was arrested, imprisoned, and fined when authorities discovered that she was teaching "free colored children" of the Christ's Church Sunday school to read and write. In her defense, Mrs. Douglass noted that she was not an abolitionist, and did not engage in undermining the institutions of the South.

Upholding School Segregation: The Roberts Case

Five-year-old Sara Roberts was forced to walk past several white schools to reach the "colored" primary school. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, a black printer, filed a lawsuit against the city of Boston to integrate public schools.

In 1849 reformer and future U.S. Senator Charles Sumner represented Roberts and challenged school segregation in the Boston court. Separate schools for African Americans, he argued, in effect branded "a whole race with the stigma of inferiority and degradation." The Massachusetts Supreme Court, however, upheld segregation in a widely cited ruling. Influential Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw noted that Boston's separate schools possessed substantially equal facilities and declared that school integration would only increase racial prejudice.

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed the Federal Government to protect the civil rights of individuals, including African Americans, against state encroachment, was ratified in 1868.

The amendment also defined national citizenship and extended it to former slaves freed by the Civil War. This 1866 letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase is from Associate Justice Stephen J. Field, whose judicial opinions would significantly influence subsequent interpretations of the amendment. Field termed the amendment, which had recently been passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification, "just what we need" and said it showed that "the American people do not intend to give up all that they have gained by the war."

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896

By the time Homer A. Plessy, an octoroon (one-eighth Negro blood), who lived in New Orleans, challenged that city's right to segregate public transportation by riding in a Whites Only rail car, the constitutional amendments, passed after the Civil War and written to provide protections and rights for Negro citizens, had been eroded. The Louisiana state courts ruled against Plessy, and his subsequent appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court was denied in 1896. The impact of Plessy was to relegate blacks to second-class citizenship. They were separated from whites by law and by private action in transportation, public accommodations, recreational facilities, churches, cemeteries and school in both Northern and Southern states.

The National Negro Committee, 1909

In 1908 socialist William English Walling published an exposé about a bloody race riot in Springfield, Illinois. As a result, in January 1909, an interracial group assembled in his apartment to discuss proposals for an organization that would advocate the civil and political rights of African Americans. The group decided to issue a "call" for a national conference on the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, February 12, 1909. As a result of the "call," the National Negro Conference was held in New York on May 31 and June 1, 1909.

At the second annual meeting, May 12, 1910, the Committee adopted the formal name of the organization--the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Among the "first and immediate steps" listed at the bottom of this founding document is "That there be equal educational opportunities for all and in all the States, and that public school expenditure be the same for Negro and white child."

The Pink Franklin Case

The NAACP undertook its first major legal case in 1910 by defending Pink Franklin, a black South Carolina sharecropper accused of murder. When Franklin left his employer after receiving an advance on his wages, a warrant was sworn for his arrest under an invalid state law. Armed policemen arrived at Franklin's cabin before dawn to serve the warrant without stating their purpose and a gun battle ensued, killing one officer. Franklin was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. The NAACP interceded, and Franklin's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Eventually, he was set free in 1919. In this letter to Mary White Ovington, Albert Pillsbury, an attorney and NAACP supporter, recommends the appeal to South Carolina Governor Martin F. Ansel.

Buchanan v. Warley

The NAACP sought out cases that infringed on the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in order to set legal precedents and ultimately secure the constitutional rights of African Americans. An early victory was Buchanan v. Warley, a case involving residential segregation in Louisville, Kentucky. Moorfield Storey, the NAACP's first president and a constitutional attorney, argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1917. The Court reversed the decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, ruling that the Louisville ordinance violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

As a result of the ruling, whites resorted to private restrictive covenants, in which property owners agreed to sell or rent to whites only. The Supreme Court declared this practice unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948). Buchanan v. Warley was cited in the Brown decision to challenge the legality of segregated public schools.

View Larger Map

Sources: Library Of Congress, Youtube, Google Maps

No comments: