There’s an interesting story told in the currently running history of the Supreme Court on PBS about the history of Civil Rights legislation and litigation that rings with relevance to all those concerned with the war in Iraq and the fate of humanity today. This strikes me especially after having spent two weeks on the road with Liam Madden and Anastasia Gomes speaking to college students and other young people about the challenge before this generation to stop the war now and drive out the Bush regime.
The PBS series includes a span from the betrayal of Reconstruction, consolidated with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, to the ruling that “separate but equal” had no basis in the Constitution in Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954.
Against a backdrop of inhuman segregation, lynchings, and night-riding terror of the KKK, the Southern Democrats filibustered civil rights legislation from the 1920s through the 1950s and the President would not intervene. The NAACP turned to the courts, but when Earl Warren was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1952 no one expected him to usher in a period of great civil rights “activism.” Warren had, after all, been appointed by Eisenhower and had been involved with the internment of the Japanese.
But larger forces were at work. The country and the world were going through dramatic underlying economic changes and profound political changes in the wake of World War II. As the U.S. spread its influence around the world under the banner of being the “leader of the free world,” the grotesque inhumanities suffered by Black people within its own borders became an international embarrassment. This was a large part of what compelled the Supreme Court to rule in Brown v. Board that segregation, “separate but equal,” violated the 14th Amendment.
Still a whole year went by before the court ruled on how to enforce this change. And even then, school districts in places like Prince Edward County closed for over a decade rather than desegregate. By 1964—ten years later!!—only one in a thousand Black school children went to integrated schools.
keep reading, click here: http://www.revcom.us/a/079/breaking-out-en.html