The Role of the Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Movement

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The Supreme Court was important in both suppressing and aiding the Civil Rights Movement. However, decisions taken by the President, the continued white opposition and improvements in media communications also had an effect. Although all were important, the Civil Rights movement alone would have reached the same end without the help of the Supreme Court, and the devotion of its many members and leaders is the major factor in advancing Civil Rights. The Supreme Court is perhaps most well known for the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. By declaring that segregation in schools was unconstitutional, Kevern Verney says a ‘direct reversal of the Plessy … ruling’1 58 years earlier was affected. It was Plessy which gave southern states the authority to continue persecuting African-Americans for the next sixty years. The first positive aspect of Brown was was the actual integration of white and black students in schools. Unfortunately, this was not carried out to a suitable degree, with many local authorities feeling no obligation to change the status quo. The Supreme Court did issue a second ruling, the so called Brown 2, in 1955. This forwarded the idea that integration should proceed 'with all deliberate speed', but James T. Patterson tells us even by 1964 ‘only an estimated 1.2% of black children ... attended public schools with white children’2. This demonstrates that, although the Supreme Court was working for Civil Rights, it was still unable to force change. Rathbone agrees, saying the Supreme Court ‘did not do enough to ensure compliance’3. However, Patterson goes on to say that ‘the case did have some impact’4. He explains how the ruling, although often ignored, acted ‘relatively quickly in most of the boarder s... ... middle of paper ... ...day .23 Mark Rathbone, The US Supreme Court and Civil Rights, History Today .24 James T. Patterson, The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board, p. 10 .25 Mark Rathbone, The US Supreme Court and Civil Rights, History Today26 The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board, James T. Patterson, p. 6.27 Martha Gellhorn, Justice at Night, The Spectator 193628 Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name, p.729 Paterson and Willoughby, Civil Rights in the USA, 1863-1980, p.200.30 Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name, p.53.31 Mark Rathbone, 20th Century History Review, The US Presidency.32 Mark Rathbone, 20th Century History Review, The US Presidency.33 Clive Webb, Modern History Review, The Ku Klux Klan.34 Clive Webb, Modern History Review, The Ku Klux Klan.35 John A. Kirk, History Toady volume 52 issue 2, The Long Road to Equality for African-Americans

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