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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

In 1954, the Supreme Court made a momentous decision on separate but equal schools in Topeka, Kansas. Though the case dealt with that school system, the decision made by the Supreme Court had national influence. Specifically, the Court decided that segregated or separate but equal schools were discriminatory and in reality not equal; therefore, such educational facilities violated the Fourteenth Amendment by denying African Americans equal protection. The Court ordered that segregated school systems were to be integrated "with all deliberate speed." The decision met with resistance and violence in many Southern school districts; but eventually segregates schools became integrated, such as those in Charles County.


Fifteenth Amendment

This amendment was added to the Constitution in 1870. With this amendment Congress wanted to assure the right to vote for African American males. The text of the amendment is as follows:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Fourteenth Amendment

This complex amendment was added to the Constitution in 1868. Its purpose was to secure civil rights for the new African American citizens and also punish former Confederates. The text of the amendment is as follows:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of law.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportio0ned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of Electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a State, or members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis or representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress or Elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof, Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each house, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations, and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


Freedmenís Bureau.

The Freedmenís Bureau was first established under the authority of the Department of War to aid for freedmen and deal with abandoned Southern lands. In 1866, Congress passed the Supplementary Freedmenís Bureau Act to extend the term of the Bureau and give it the power through special courts to protect freedmenís rights and settle labor problems between freedman laborers and their employers. Under the direction of Union General Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau helped freedmen and white refugees get jobs, housing, food, relief, medical aid and schools. In 1869, the Freedmenís Bureau ceased to be a federal agency, but before it ended the Bureau founded more than 4,000 schools for African American students.


Libertus Von Bokkelen

Born in New York, Reverend Von Bokkelen arrived in Maryland in 1845 as a rector to St. Timothyís Church in Catonsville. While there he established a private school at St. Timothyís. He became a vocal supporter of establishing a public school system in the state that helped lead to his appointment as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1864. He was instrumental in implementing a system of public schools in Maryland that included, according to his plan, primary schools, grammar schools, high schools, normal schools to train teachers, an organized system of colleges and universities, schools for the deaf and dumb and the mentally retarded, and separate schools for African American students.


separate but equal doctrine

The separate but equal doctrine emerged in the latter 1800s as a means to provide one system of facilities and schools for the exclusive use of whites and one for the exclusive use of African Americans. This traditional part of life in the southern states was made legal with the passage of local laws generally referred to as "Jim Crow" laws. In 1896, these "Jim Crow" laws were upheld in the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson. This case specifically dealt with railroad accommodations provided separately for whites and African Americans in Louisiana. The Supreme Court decided that the state law did not violate the Fourteenth Amendmentís clause for equal protection and did not discriminate, since the railroad facilities being provided were equal. This decision legalized segregation practices nationally. The separate but equal doctrine would last until 1954, when it was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.


Thirteenth Amendment

This amendment was added to the Constitution in 1865. It was a logical consequence of the Emancipation Proclamation, as it declared slavery illegal. The text of the amendment is as follows:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have poser to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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Last updated on:07/20/03
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