African American History Since 1860
Dr. Juliet Walker
Final Exam Take-Home Questions
I definitely agree that the 1954 Brown decision and the three Civil Rights Laws that followed in the 1960s were preceded by the events listed in the question. There are many cases that serve as examples to this claim and although some were more directly associated with the Brown case result, they are all just as important for the outcome of the case.
One case I feel was important in determining the outcome of the Brown case is Smith v. Allwright in 1944. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled the Democratic Party’s prohibition of black voters as unconstitutional, thus ending their “white primaries”. This result, along with several other events, helped to greatly improve black voter registration so that they could be better represented in their individual states. Now that democratic candidates had to worry about the votes of blacks, those with more pro-black agendas were at an advantage and with these new candidates in office, blacks had better representation in government.
The next case I found to be important toward the Brown decision is Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that racial-based covenants could not be judicially enforced, which allowed for blacks to move into homes that they might have previously not been allowed to. This started a desegregation of neighborhoods that were white-only until this time, which is what Brown was trying to do with schools.
One last case I want to emphasize is McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents in 1950 which, along with Sweatt v. Painter effectively ended the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson in public graduate and professional programs. By deeming segregation in higher public education unconstitutional in regards to the 14th amendment, the Brown decision now seemed inevitable. Several other major events that had a huge impact on civil rights efforts came post-World War II and around the time of the Cold War. Throughout WWII, there were over 900,000 blacks in the military serving the United States and in 1949 the Navy announced equality in the treatment towards, and opportunities for, blacks in the Navy and Marine forces. At the same time, blacks were being afforded many other rights, mainly on the topic of desegregation, and the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s further excited the black community. However, with all these new rights, blacks had rising expectations for their new place in society. This eventually led to frustration in the fact that racial prejudice, social class standings, and poverty were all problems blacks still had to face, despite the recent legislation in their favor. The Cold War also affected civil rights advancement in the 1980s. The U.S. was facing criticism and the accusation of being hypocritical at the time by calling ourselves the “leader of the free world” when we were still showing the struggle between races within our own country. In order to appeal to the ‘Third World’, the U.S. moved to support civil rights movements even more to show that we were on the same page as them. Within the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s were many very important provisions to improve the rights of blacks. In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, some of these provisions included a ban on discrimination in public settings, the ability of the U.S. Attorney General to join lawsuits in regards to state segregation of schools, and was a big step towards the ban of voter qualification requirements. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which came the following year, effectively put an end to biased qualifications used to discriminate against potential black voters. Lastly, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 had two major provisions that pushed for equality. The first was a ban on discrimination in housing, where an owner could not refuse to sell or rent property on the basis of race, ethnicity, and more. The second major provision targeted hate crimes, setting a