Living the Legacy

Share

De facto segregation in the North: Skipwith vs. NYC Board of Education

Unit 2 , Lesson 2

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

http://jwa.org/LivingtheLegacy

De facto segregation in the North: Skipwith vs. NYC Board of Education

Handouts: 

Dred Scott v. Sanford

Date: 1857

Description:
Dred Scott was a slave from Missouri, who traveled with his master to the free states of Illinois and Wisconsin. When Scott returned to Missouri he sued for his freedom, claiming that since he had lived in free states he was now free.

Decision:
Ten years after Scott first brought his suit, the Supreme Court ruled against him. The majority opinion stated that blacks were not included as "citizens" in the US Constitution and therefore could not claim any of the rights or privileges listed in that document.

Plessy v. Ferguson

Date: 1896

Description:
Homer Plessy, a 30-year-old black man who lived in Louisiana, was arrested for sitting in the White Only car of the East Louisiana Railroad. He went to court, saying that the law that allowed for separate cars for black people and white people violated the fourteenth amendment (which provides for equal protection under the law). The case worked its way from the local level all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Decision:
Each court, including the Supreme Court, found Plessy guilty of not leaving the white car. The majority opinion stated that "A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races -- a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color -- has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races..." This came to be known as the "separate but equal" doctrine.

Morgan v. Virginia

Date: 1946

Description:
In July 1944, Irene Morgan was arrested when she refused to yield her seat to a white passenger on a bus from Virginia to Maryland. Morgan was tried and convicted of violating a state segregation ordinance. Her conviction was upheld by the state appellate court. The following year, lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took on Morgan's case. The NAACP argued that statutes requiring segregation on interstate carriers placed an undue burden on interstate commerce and thus violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Decision:
In a 7 to 1 ruling on June 3, 1946, the Supreme Court reversed the Virginia appellate court decision, striking down the Virginia law and, by extension, the laws in other states mandating Jim Crow practices on interstate transport.

In April 1947, an interracial group of sixteen people under the auspices of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) engaged in a "Journey of Reconciliation" to call attention to the Court's decision and to force adherence to it. The journey was a precursor to the Freedom Rides of 1961.

Méndez v. Westminster

Date: 1946

Description:
Gonzalo Méndez and his family moved to Westminster in Orange County, CA in 1943. Méndez, a native of Westminster, attempted to enroll his children in the same elementary school that he had attended as a child only to learn that new Jim Crow laws had since been enacted. As Mexican immigration to the United States grew, the Westminster school system ruled that students of Mexican descent must attend a segregated school and were no longer permitted to enroll at Westminster Elementary School. Refusing to abide by the Jim Crow laws, Méndez, along with several other Mexican-American parents and with the help of the League of Latin American Citizens, sued four school districts in Orange County, CA for enforcing segregation. Méndez’s lawyers argued that segregation was illegal under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Decision:
Senior District Judge Paul McCormick ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, rejecting the “separate but equal” doctrine made precedent in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Orange County schools appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the ruling. In 1947, Earl Warren, then the governor of California, signed the Anderson Bill, thus revoking the state’s segregation statutes. Warren was later appointed as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he presided over the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Sweatt v. Painter

Date: 1950

Description:
Herman Marion Sweatt applied to the University of Texas Law School in 1946. Since the University of Texas Law School was only for white students and Herman Sweatt was black, the University denied his application. Sweatt then sued the university, which attempted to set up an equal, but separate program for him and other black law students. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court

Decision:
In 1950, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Herman Marion Sweatt, claiming that the "law school for Negroes" which the University of Texas meant to open would not and could not be equal to the school for white students. There would be inequalities of faculty, library facilities, and course offerings. In addition, just the fact that the black students would be separate from the majority of other law students would do them harm.

McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

Date: 1950

Description:
George W. McLaurin applied to the University of Oklahoma's graduate program in education. Since state law mandated segregation in education, the University denied his application. McLaurin brought a suit against the university in Federal court in Oklahoma. The court indicated that the University did have to accept George McLaurin as a student. The University was not entirely comfortable with this decision and tried to segregate McLaurin on campus by making him sit separately in the library, in classes, and in the cafeteria. Because of this treatment, McLaurin appealed his case which then went to the Supreme Court.

Decision:
The Supreme Court found in favor of McLaurin. The majority opinion stated that the treatment that McLaurin received at the University violated the 14th amendment and that since McLaurin could not easily mix with other students the school was preventing him from learning his chosen profession.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Date: 1954

Description:
In 1951, thirteen black parents living in Topeka, KS, and working with the NAACP tried to enroll their children in the school closest to where they lived, which was a school only for white students. Not surprisingly, they were told that they could not enroll their children in this school. The parents then brought a class action suit against the Topeka Board of Education to try and get it to end its policy of segregated education. The court case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which issued a decision in 1954.

Decision:
The Supreme Court found in favor of the parents. They stated that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. It is not possible to have "separate but equal" facilities.

Jewish Participation:

In 1950, the American Jewish Committee hired a black psychologist, Kenneth Clark, to study the impact of school segregation on black children. He found that segregated education had a large impact on black children's self-esteem. Clark's research and findings became a major part of the brief prepared by the NAACP in this case.

Boynton v. Virginia

Date: 1960

Description:
In 1958, Bruce Boynton was on his way home to Montgomery, Alabama, when he took a seat and ordered a snack in the white only section of a restaurant at a Trailway bus station during a brief stop in his trip. Since the restaurant was segregated and Bruce Boynton was black, he was asked to move to the colored section of the restaurant. Boynton refused to leave and maintained that since he was an interstate bus passenger he was protected by Federal anti-Segregation laws. The staff at the restaurant called the police and Bruce Boynton was arrested and fined $10.

Decision:
The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court which ruled, in 1960, that racial segregation in public transportation violated the interstate commerce act.

Loving v. Virginia

Date: 1967

Description:
In 1958, Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, got married in Washington, D.C. They were both residents of Virginia, but had gone to the District of Columbia to get married in order to avoid their state's ban on interracial marriages. After the wedding, they returned to Virginia. They were later arrested in their home and charged with breaking the law. They pled guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail. The American Civil Liberties Union picked up their case and brought it as far as the Supreme Court.

Decision:
The Supreme Court, in an unusual 9-0 decision, overturned the law banning interracial marriages in Virginia, finding it unconstitutional based on the 14th Amendment.

Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education

Date: 1971

Description:
North Carolina was a comparatively moderate southern state when it came to civil rights and integration, yet by the mid-1960s it had still not successfully integrated all of its schools. One area where schools were still segregated based on neighborhood was Charlotte, NC. In 1965, the NAACP brought a suit against the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education, calling on them to do more to integrate the schools. A plan to bus students from different neighborhoods in order to better integrate the schools was developed. However, the school board maintained that it was not constitutionally required to make this change.

Decision:
The Supreme Court unanimously supported Swann and the plan to bus students. It stated that when previous plans had failed to resolve the issues of segregation, the local courts did indeed have the power to impose a plan on the school board.

Skipwith v. New York City Board of Education

Date: 1958

Description:

Decision:

[ Back to top ]

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: De facto segregation in the North: Skipwith vs. NYC Board of Education." (Viewed on April 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/civilrights/de-facto-segregation-in-north-skipwith-vs-nyc-board-of-education>.