1849 – 1950 Racial Segregation in American Society
Between 1849 to 1950, racial segregation played a big part in American society. It is the separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. Some places that were segregated throughout towns were restaurants, library, water fountains and even schools. There were two schools, one for colored people and one for white people. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren had issued a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education. This case ruled that racial segregation in public schools had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This is not the first attempt to bring the idea of segregated schools to an end. Before 1954, Lum v. Rice case that took place in 1923, share similar and different attributes to Brown v. Board of Education and Westminster School District v. Mendez in 1947. In the Lum v. Rice case, the court ruling stated that the 14th amendment was not violated, and the school has the right to exclude someone outside the white race from their all white school. When looking at the Westminster School district v. Mendez case, the court ruled that the 14th amendment was violated because the American system of public education is social equality. They further looked into so, which resulted in a further look into segregation in a public school. Eventually, they fought and promoted a way to end segregation in school.
In 1890, Mississippi Constitution had created dual school systems for whites and blacks in the community. A couple of years later Rosedale Consolidated High School opened its school year. This is the school that Martha Lum was enrolled in. Education was very important to her parents and wanted their daughters to receive the best possible. Like many other schools in Mississippi, Rosedale Consolidated High School was a segregated school for white kids only. Although by law Chinese weren’t allowed to go to the White schools, many went anyways keeping their race a secret. Another case that has its similarities and differences to the Lum v. Rice case was the Westminster School district v. Mendez case. It was an ongoing battle for the fight of racial equality. It is significant because this was the first case where segregation in school was brought up and successfully won in the federal court.
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The similarities between the two cases were that the two girls were excluded from school because of their race. During Martha’s first day of school she was approached by her principal he said, “she would not be allowed to return to the school; that an order had been issued by the Board of Trustees, who are made defendants, excluding her from attending the school solely on the ground that she was of Chinese descent” (page 70). Something similar happened to the Mendez family. In 1943, Mendez was denied the right to enroll at the white elementary the school officials said, “the Mendez kids, who were dark-skinned and had a Mexican last name, were not allowed; they had to enroll at the “Mexican” school 10 blocks away” (Mendez v Westminster history). As a result of that Martha was dismissed from school. When the news got to Martha’s father he was furious because he is a respectable man in his community. Who always pay his taxes. So he decided to get a petition for his daughter. When Mendez’s parents heard the news they decided to sue to the school district.
The two cases started out as something small was later recognized by the federal court as an important matter but they were ruled differently. Regarding Lum v Rice case, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that “a Mississippi school board had not violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause” (Britannica article). They were well within their right to kick Martha out because the school was for whites only. The judge argued to not look further into the case because the 14th amendment was not violated by the school. Opposed to Mendez case when this was brought to court it was ruled that the school did, in fact, violate the equal protection clause. As a result of this, the case was further looked into. This was the beginning of the end of segregation in schools. This case resulted in many other segregated schools being acknowledged for example, “in cases mainly filed by the NAACP, held that segregated schools attended by African American children violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because they were inferior in resources and quality, not because they were segregated” (American immigration council).
Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, the federal court system upholds people’s equal protection by making sure they were treated equally. When it came down to the education they wanted to ensure that is the schools that were segregated was receiving the same lessons, books, and learning opportunities as each other. In the Lum v Rice case, this was not a problem. The white and Chinese schools were receiving the same fair education. When looking at the Mendez case it is clear that they did not receive the same benefits as segregated schools. This is why it was a problem and how it violated the 14th amendment, separate but equal.