Linda Brown in 1964 (Library of Congress)
Brown v. Board of Education is the case that desegregated schools in America and overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” that enabled segregation in the United States. The third grader at the center of the case, Linda Brown, died this week at the age of 76.
Linda just wanted a closer school and a safer commute, one that didn’t involve crossing a dangerous street and railroad tracks just to get to her bus. But the school five minutes from her home was all white and Linda was African American. And in Topeka, Kansas in the 1950s, like in much of the country, schools were segregated. Linda’s parents objected and their case became a class action lawsuit that eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court.
In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court ruled in favor of Brown, writing that segregation and the doctrine of “separate but equal” were inherently unequal and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Learn more about the fight to end segregation in schools in our film An Independent Judiciary.
On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, was adopted after being ratified by three fourths of the states. Support for a Bill of Rights gained momentum during the ratification process, with many Framers and state legislators arguing that the new Constitution needed to do more to guarantee certain freedoms for citizens. Originally twelve Amendments were proposed, by the original first and second Amendments, which discussed numbers of Congressional Representatives and Representative and Senator pay, were not adopted at the time.
Watch our film, The Bill of Rights to learn about the fight behind this landmark founding document, and the rights it’s intended to protect.
Roy Reed in An Independent Judiciary
Acclaimed Civil Rights reporter Roy Reed passed away this week at the age of 87. Roy Reed was an award-winning author and journalist, covering many of the defining moments of the Civil Rights era, including the March on Selma. Read more about Reed’s life and work here.
And see Roy Reed speak about the integration of Little Rock Central High School in our film An Independent Judiciary.
(Wisconsin Legislative Technology Services Bureau)
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a case that could reshape how legislative districts are drawn in the United States. Every ten years, when the U.S. does a census, political maps across the country are redrawn by state legislatures. This gives the political party in control of the state legislature enormous power because they are the ones who get to decide how these new districts will be drawn. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that you can’t draw districts based on racial lines (something they reenforced two times last term). But making districts that benefit one party over the other by diluting the impact of the minority party’s vote? That’s been totally legal.
Today the Supreme Court will hear a challenged to the way Wisconsin drew its legislative map in a case called Gill v. Whitford. Following the last census in 2010, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature redrew their districts map is such a way that, in 2012, Republicans carried less than half of the overall vote (48.6 %) but won nearly two thirds of the seats in the state assembly. The Supreme Court is set to decide whether maps like Wisconsin’s are unconstitutional.
Learn more about the history of racially-based gerrymandering in our film One Person, One Vote.
Check out our new film The Confrontation Clause: Crawford v. Washington. You can find the whole film streaming online for free at the Annenberg Classroom website. The film tells the story of how we got the right to confront our accusers in court (and what happened to one famous person who didn’t have that right). But what happens when your accuser isn’t a person but a taped confession?