The Plessy and the Briggs and Brown Cases
Although the Plessy, Briggs, and Brown cases sought to end segregationist policies, various elements differentiated the three landmark lawsuits. In the Plessy V. Ferguson case, the defendant was charged with defying the racial sitting arrangements in public transport, contravening Louisiana’s statutes. Plessy argued that such legislation infringed the constitutional provisions of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments. However, the Trial and Supreme Court disagreed with Plessy’s submissions and asserted that racial separations were legal, provided the facilities were equivalent. Conversely, in the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court held that racial discriminatory practices constituted inequalities, regardless of similar facilities. There, the cases presented differing opinions regarding discrimination and racism in the United States.
Moreover, the Supreme Court judges, in Plessy’s case, contended that selective treatment based on race and color did not breach the Equal Protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment or constitute slavery. However, this view differed with the judges’ pronouncements in the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which indicated that the separation generated feelings of inferiority and deprived people of equal opportunities. Therefore, regardless of the equality of the facilities, segregation was unconstitutional.
Furthermore, the decision in the Plessy’s case indicated that exclusionist legislation did not impose a mark of inferiority on the segregated, an assumption disputed by the judges’ submission in the Brown and Brigg’s lawsuits. Besides, the judges in the Plessy’s litigation observed that the Thirteenth Amendment’s application was limited to practices appeared to reintroduce slavery. Consequently, the Plessy’s judgment legitimized and institutionalized the enactment of open discriminatory laws. On the contrary, the decision in Brown and Brigg’s cases indicated that segregation produced servitude and amplified inequalities, rendering such laws unconstitutional. Thus, while the Briggs and Brown’s court actions explored the specific constitutional elements, the outcome of the Plessy’s case was based on non-constitutional suppositions.
Evidence Presented by NAACP Lawyers to Desegregate Public Schools
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) formulated a legal strategy to abolish the racial caste distinctions and segregation in public schools. The NAACP’s first attorney, Nathan Ross Margold, opined that launching an open attack on school segregation would be counterproductive as it would attract intense opposition and strife. Notably, Margold challenged the constitutional validity of the Plessy V. Ferguson decision, particularly the ideology of separate but equal since most states could not afford duplicate schools setting for the Blacks.
In the Margold Report, the lawyers demonstrated the inferior and low maintenance standards of the public schools provided for Blacks. Margold showed evidentiary the violation of the separate but equal principle, where public schools had varying upkeep standards. Since most states did not have parallel infrastructures to accommodate law, medicine, and other graduate-school programs, the all-white colleges could send Black students to other jurisdictions that could support the separate but equal treatment. Margold averred that the absence of a separate and parallel school system denied African Americans opportunities to study in their localities, which contravened the Plessy’s doctrine. For instance, Lloyd Lionel Gaines’s case forced the University of Maryland to either admit or establish a separate system for black students. Similarly, the three small basement enclosures at the University of Texas, where part-time tutors could teach Heman Sweatt, could not accord him equal legal education to that offered to the white students by full-time trainers in ordinary settings. Thus, the NAACP submitted evidential information, which demonstrated that black students would be required to wait until parallel systems were constructed or send them to other states with a twin structure.
Origin and Meaning of “Separate but Equal”
The racial policy of separate but equal originates from the promise of equality and the equal protection of all people as envisaged by the Constitution. However, following the Civil War and Reconstruction, white supremacists reasserted themselves across the South, culminating in discriminatory laws that provided separate cars for different races. In New Orleans, Homer Plessy challenged the 1890 Louisiana statute in the Plessy V. Ferguson legal action, which proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling was that racial separation did not breach any constitutional stipulation, provided the different races enjoyed similar and equal facilities. Plessy asserted such a statute negated the principle of equality as envisaged by the 13th and 14th Amendments. Additionally, he contended that the legislation degraded the blacks and consigned them into a lower standing than the whites. The ruling rendered in the Plessy’s Case birthed the ideology of separate but equal and legitimized the passage of exclusionist laws. The principle meant that the blacks could be legally discriminated against if granted equivalent facilities.
The decision in the Plessy V. Ferguson case led to the enactment of many state legislation that legally endorsed racial segregation. Many jurisdictions decreed that the whites and blacks could not use the same public utilities and were provided with a parallel establishment. Additionally, the case expanded the existing infrastructure to accommodate the blacks. Eventually, it enforced integration due to the inherent inequalities in the separation of the two races, as seen in Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Heman Sweatt V. The University of Texas, and Lloyd Lionel Gaines V. The University of Missouri.