The landmark Supreme Court cases of Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas have had a tremendous effect on the struggle for equal rights in America. These marker cases have set the precedent for cases dealing with the issue of civil equality for the last 150 years.
In 1846, a slave living in Missouri named Dred Scott, sued for his freedom on the basis that he had lived for a total of seven years in territories that were closed to slavery. Scott's owner had been an army doctor named John Emerson. Emerson's position had required him to move several times in a relatively short amount of time. During his time with Emerson, Scott had lived in the state of Illinois, which was free, and the Wisconsin territory which was closed to slavery according to the Missouri compromise. After Emerson's death in 1843, Scott became the property of Emerson's wife.
Scott's case had quite a bit of legal precedents. The state of Missouri had freed slaves in cases that were very similar to that of Scott's. After 16 years the case finally moved up to the Supreme Court. Emerson's wife had remarried and moved leaving Scott to her brother a Mr. Sandford.
The Supreme Court finally heard the case in 1856. However, the case was postponed until the following year. In a seven to nine decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Tawney delivered the courts decision. The courts ruled that no slaves, or their descendents, had ever been and or are US Citizens. Furthermore, the court ruled that Congress could not stop the spread of slavery to the newly emerging states. They went so far as to declare the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional; claiming it violated the 15th Amendment by denying property with ...
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...red the courts decision. In a unanimous ruling it declared that, "in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place," and that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This ruling overturned the idea of separate but equal that had come about as a result of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. While it did not end segregation in other public facilities or give a time line for the complete desegregation of schools, it did mark the beginning of the end for the unjust and repressive Jim Crowe laws.
These landmark cases are symbolic of the ups and downs that marked the struggle for equal rights in America. Although these rulings were not always fair or just, they were representative of their time and place in American history, and serve to remind us of how far we have come as a nation and how much further we have to go.
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