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Black Esquire Case Summaries

Our library is full of instrumental U.S. Supreme Court cases that have had a significant effect on the Black and minority community throughout history. Read and learn!

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Supreme Court of the United States Cases By Year

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

Ruled that slaves were the property of their masters which meant that they were not citizens and therefore did not have standing to sue in court. It also struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional.

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Civil Rights Cases (1883)

The U.S. Supreme Court consolidated five civil rights cases into one decision that declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional for allowing private sector segregation.

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Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896)

Created the well-known “separate but equal” doctrine” which allowed for racial segregation of facilities so long as they were considered “equal.”

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Powell v. Alabama 287 U.S. 45 (1932)

This case was also decided with Patterson v. Alabama and Weems v. Alabama which overturned some of the convictions of the “Scottsboro Boys” by declaring it a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to deny them the right to adequate counsel.

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Korematsu v. U.S., 323 U.S. 214 (1944)

The Supreme Court upheld the Executive Order issued after Pearl Harbor during World War II that placed Japanese Americans into relocation camps in the name of national security.

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Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948)

The Supreme Court ruled that a restrictive covenant preventing people of certain races from owning or occupying property was unconstitutional in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950)

Heman Marion Sweatt was denied admission to the University of Texas School of Law because of his race. They attempted to accommodate him using “separate but equal facilities” but the Supreme Court ruled the school’s practice as unconstitutional.

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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Black students were denied admittance to public schools in Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C. The Supreme Court overruled the Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” doctrine, and declared that public school segregation was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958)

Known as “the Little Rock Nine,” this case desegregated Arkansas public schools.

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Black Esquire

The Civil Rights Act of 1964:

The Supreme Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as valid under the Commerce Clause.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., looks on as President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964)

The Heart of Atlanta Motel refused to accommodate blacks in their motel. This case challenged the constitutionality of Title II of the Civil Rights Act, by denying the voice of their customers. The court ruled that the motel could not discriminate on the basis of race.

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Loving v. Virginia 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

This decision granted the “fundamental right to marry” by ruling that the prohibition on interracial marriage was unconstitutional.

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Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 438 U.S. 265 (1978)

In this case, the University of California Medical School reserved a set number of seats for minority candidates. This case declared the use of race-based factors for higher education admissions as unconstitutional in cases where race was used as a quota to admit more diverse students.

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Grutter v. Bollinger 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

This case involved the admission practices of the University of Michigan Law School. The Supreme Court here ruled that the university’s use of race as a factor in their admission practice was fine, because there was a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body.”

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Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 _(2016)

Initially decided as Fisher v. University of Texas, 570 US _ (2013) , this case was remanded back to the lower court to apply the proper standard of strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the University of Texas’s use of race in their admission criteria did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the school’s process was “narrowly tailored” to achieve a compelling state interest of a diverse student body.

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