KC Johnson

History 3442: Civil Rights & Reaction

  • Anthony Badger, “The South Confronts the Court: The Southern Manifesto of 1956,” Journal of Policy History
  • Michael Klarman, “Brown vs. Board of Education: Law or Politics?,” UVA Public Law Research Paper

Eisenhower summarizes his civil rights philosophy to Rev. Billy Graham:

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)–excerpts

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does . . .

Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language  in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Civil Rights Act of 1957–excerpts

An Act to provide means of further securing and protecting the civil rights of persons within the jurisdiction of the United States . . .

PART IV. TO PROVIDE MEANS OF FURTHER SECURING AND PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO VOTE

Section 131.

Section 2004 of the Revised statutes (42 U.S.C. 1971), is amended as follows:

Add, immediately following the present text, four new subsections to read as follows:

“(b) No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, presidential elector, Member of the Senate, or Member of the house of Representatives, Delegates or Commissioners from the Territories or possessions, at any general special, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any such candidate. “(c) whenever any person has engaged or there are reasonable grounds to believe that any person is about to engage in any act or practice which would deprive any other person of any right or privilege secured by a subsection (a) or (b), the Attorney General may institute for the United States, or in the name of the United States, a civil action or other proper proceeding for preventive relief, including an application for a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order. In any proceeding hereunder the United States shall be liable for costs the same as a private person.

“(d) the district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction of the proceedings instituted pursuant to this section and shall exercise the same without regard to whether the party aggrieved shall have exhausted any administrative or other remedies that may be provided by law.

“(e) Any person cited for an alleged contempt under this Act shall be allowed to make his full defense by counsel learned in the law; and the court before which he is cited or tried, or some judge thereof, shall immediately, upon his request, assign to him such counsel, not exceeding two, as he may desire, who shall have free access to him at all reasonable hours. He shall be allowed, in his defense to make any proof that he can produce by lawful witnesses, and shall have the like process of the court to compel his witnesses to appear at his trial or hearing, as is usually granted to compel witnesses to appear on behalf of the prosecution. If such person shall be found by the court to be financially unable provide for such counsel, it shall be the duty of the court to provide such counsel.”

PART V. TO PROVIDE TRIAL BY JURY FOR PROCEEDINGS TO PUNISH CRIMINAL CONTEMPTS OF COURT GROWING OUT OF CIVIL RIGHTS CASES AND TO AMEND THE JUDICIAL CODE RELATING TO FEDERAL JURY QUALIFICATIONS.

Section 151.

All cases of criminal contempt arising under the provisions of this Act, the accused, upon conviction, shall be punished by fine or imprisonment or both: Provided however, That in case the accused is a natural person the fine to be paid shall not exceed the sum of $1,000, nor shall imprisonment exceed the term of six months: Provided Further, that in any such proceeding for criminal contempt, at the discretion of the judge, the accused may be tried with or without a jury: Provided further, however, That in the event such proceeding for a criminal contempt be tried before a judge without a jury and the sentence of the court upon conviction is a fine in excess of the sum of $30 or imprisonment in excess of forty-five days, the accused in said proceeding, upon demand therefor, shall be entitled to a trial de novo before a jury which shall conform as near as may be to the practice in other criminal cases.

Eisenhower signs 1957 civil rights act:

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