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Separate but Equal Law Essay

Separate but Equal Law Paper

Separate but equal is an American constitutional legal doctrine stating that racial segregation was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the USA constitution. The amendment was adopted in 1868. It prohibited American states from denying equal protection under law to any person under their mandate. Under the Separate but Equal doctrine, the facilities provided to each race were supposed to be separate though equal. The state and the local government could distribute services, public facilities, housing and public accommodation, transport, medicare, employment, and education according to race. How would you then write a separate but equal law paper?

The separate but equal legal principle was derived from a Louisiana law of 1890. It should however be noted that the court case proceedings used equal but separate. The doctrine was added more power by  Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision of 1896. The judgment allowed the state to carry out racial segregation.

The nature of facilities was provided for by law. In seldom cases, they corresponded. In some situations, they were of lower quality. However, in extreme scenarios, they were nonexistent. The doctrine  underwent several Supreme Court Judgments.

 

Origin of the Separate but Equal Doctrine

One of the triggers of American Civil War (1861-65) was wiping out slavery in the Southern states. The Southerners heard that some political power brokers were planning on abolishing slavery in the whole country. The emancipation proclamation  and the executive order by Abraham Lincoln, on 1/1/1863 aimed at changing the status of the enslaved people from “Slave” to “Free”. However, the declaration did materialize immediately. The process was gradual. As a condition of war, a slave became legally free if they got away from the jurisdiction of the Confederate government. This happened through running away and/or advancement of federal troops. The war eradicated slavery.

After the war, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. To fast track the integration process of the former slaves, into the Southern society, Congress formed Freedmen’s Bureau. It is after the reconstruction of the United States era and withdraw of the federal troops, that prompted some of the Southern Pro-slavery states enact some retrogressive laws meant to undermine equal treatment of former black slaves. Many American courts did not rule in favor of African-Americans when they sued for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment rights. The courts argued that the amendment was meant for Federal residents but not citizens of individual states. An example was the Civil Rights Cases of 1883. The cases were a consolidation of five Supreme Court disputes. Justice John Marshall Harlan ruled that the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 were null and void because congress lacked the mandate of regulating private affairs.

After the reconstruction era, the Federal government left the choice of racial segregation to individual states. For instance, the Second Morrill Act of 1890 recognized legally, the idea separate but equal treatment. The concept however applied to the 17 states that practiced institutionalized segregation.

Before the Morill Act of 1890, the blacks were barred from attending Land-grant Institutions. Additionally, the blacks were not offered alternative separate but equal learning institutions. After the Act, African-American students were educated through the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Some states regally proscribed schools from mixing black and white learners, even when schools would willingly do.

The segregated racial treatments were boosted by some judicial processes like  Berea College v. Kentucky ruling of 1908. The ruling upheld that even if separate but equal segregation was to happen the states reserved the responsibility of maintaining the facilities. In 1896, the 14th Amendment provisions were boosted by Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. The Plessy ideology was extended to public schools in 1899 through the Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education. The Supreme Court allowed racial segregation in public schools.

Although the 14th Amendment provided for equal treatment of all citizens, each white student received more funding as compared to a Black student in the same locality and set of conditions. Texas, for instance, inaugurated a state-sponsored law school for the white without an equal establishment for Blacks.

 

The Legal Battle Hatched the phrase of separate but Equal

Homer Plessy was a mixed race citizen. In 1892, he boarded a pure-white railcar plying between New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana. On disclosing that he was a mixed race passenger, the conductor advised him to change to an all-colored railcar. On resisting, he was arrested.

Plessy appeared before Judge John Ferguson a month after the arrest. He was represented by lawyer Albion Tourgee. Albion argued that Plessy’s 13 and 14th amendment rights were violated. Slavery was abolished by the 13th amendment while equal protection of all Americans under the law was allowed by the 14th amendment.

The Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, coined the term “equal but separate”. Companies that carried passengers in Louisiana were required to provide “equal, but separate” railcars for the whites and the colored. Accommodation between the two cars were supposed to be coequal. Companies were allowed to deny services to non-compliant passengers. The court observed that the ruling did not harm the provisions of the 13th and 14th amendments.

 

The Aftermath

The separate but equal rights applied to learning institutions, railroad cars, voting rights and water fountains. Pure-race schools were established so long as they followed the provision of the ruling.  Colored people’s schools received old course books, used equipment, and poorly trained or amateur teachers.

An American Psychological Association study pointed out that segregation caused emotional impairment in black students if it happened at a young age. This happened because black students were compulsorily linked to “white dolls”. In other cases, colors close to white, or fairer than their skins. Literacy tests and poll taxes were used to deny blacks the right to vote.

The ruling of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954, declared that all national laws that supported the principle of “separate but equal” were unconstitutional. Such laws were said to violate the Equal Protection Clause as stipulated in the 14th Amendment. Even after the repeal of that law, blacks were not equal as they received inferior services, and their voting rights remained brindled nationally. Social and political power was not distributed  equally among the races.

The repeal of the law of separate but equal was a major boost to Civil Rights crusaders. Additionally, it paved way for more impact or strategic litigation cases.

References

Williams G. Thomas (June 24, 2008). “How Slavery Ended in the Civil War”. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

Plessy v. Ferguson Law Case

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