Untitled Document

Book of Days – May 31 – The Visitation
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 3:20 PM

Today is the current date on which many Western Christians observe the Visitation of the Virgin Mary with Elizabeth.  Traditionally, the Visitation was (and still is by some) observed on July 2 in the West.  For today, John Sheppard’s version of the Magnificat:



Book of Days – May 30 – Romans breach the Second Wall of Jerusalem
Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 6:45 AM

On this date in A.D. 70, Titus and his Roman legions breached the second wall in Jerusalem, as the siege advanced.  Today’s writing is from Book V, Chapters 7 of Flavius Josephus’ The War of the Jews.

CHAPTER 7.

HOW ONE OF THE TOWERS ERECTED BY THE ROMANS FELL DOWN OF ITS OWN ACCORD; AND HOW THE ROMANS AFTER GREAT SLAUGHTER HAD BEEN MADE GOT POSSESSION OF THE FIRST WALL. HOW ALSO TITUS MADE HIS ASSAULTS UPON THE SECOND WALL; AS ALSO CONCERNING LONGINUS THE ROMAN, AND CASTOR THE JEW.

1. NOW, on the next night, a surprising disturbance fell upon the Romans; for whereas Titus had given orders for the erection of three towers of fifty cubits high, that by setting men upon them at every bank, he might from thence drive those away who were upon the wall, it so happened that one of these towers fell down about midnight; and as its fall made a very great noise, fear fell upon the army, and they, supposing that the enemy was coming to attack them, ran all to their arms. Whereupon a disturbance and a tumult arose among the legions, and as nobody could tell what had happened, they went on after a disconsolate manner; and seeing no enemy appear, they were afraid one of another, and every one demanded of his neighbor the watchword with great earnestness, as though the Jews had invaded their camp. And now were they like people under a panic fear, till Titus was informed of what had happened, and gave orders that all should be acquainted with it; and then, though with some difficulty, they got clear of the disturbance they had been under.

(more…)



Book of Days – Memorial Day – The Bivouac of the Dead
Monday, May 29, 2017, 7:03 AM

My grandparents called this Decoration Day. Both of my Grandpa Laughlin’s grandfathers died as a result of their service as Union soldiers in the Civil War. His maternal grandfather died of disease at LaGrange, Tennessee, eight weeks before the birth of his only child, my great-grandmother. His paternal grandfather died after the war from an infection from his gunshot wound received at the battle of Antietam.

If you’ve walked through a national cemetery, you will often see plaques with stanzas from The Bivouac of the Dead, a poem written by Theodore O’Hara in honor of his fellow soldiers in the Mexican War who lost their lives. O’Hara also fought as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War.

I’ve posted a sung rendition. The complete poem follows.

 

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dreams alarms;
No braying horn or screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

 

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

 

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle’s stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war’s wild note, nor glory’s peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

 

Like the fierce Northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,
Come down the serried foe,
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew the watchword of the day
Was “Victory or death!”

 

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

 

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.
By rivers of their father’s gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

 

For many a mother’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain —
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.

 

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land’s heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil —
The ashes of her brave.

 

Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

 

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.

 

Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor time’s remorseless doom,
Can dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.



Book of Days – May 28 – Battle of Halys and Solar Eclipse
Sunday, May 28, 2017, 8:15 AM

On this date, May 28, 585 BC, during battle of Halys, a solar eclipse occurred. Our ability to date this eclipse makes the battle of Halys perhaps the earliest event we can precisely date. According to Herodotus, the eclipse was predicted by Thales of Miletus, making it the first solar eclipse in history to be predicted.

From Herodotus’ The Histories, 1.73-1.74:

“Afterwards, on the refusal of Alyattes to give up his suppliants when Cyaxares sent to demand them of him, war broke out between the Lydians and the Medes, and continued for five years, with various success. In the course of it the Medes gained many victories over the Lydians, and the Lydians also gained many victories over the Medes. Among their other battles there was one night engagement. As, however, the balance had not inclined in favour of either nation, another combat took place in the sixth year, in the course of which, just as the battle was growing warm, day was on a sudden changed into night. This event had been foretold by Thales, the Milesian, who forewarned the Ionians of it, fixing for it the very year in which it actually took place. The Medes and Lydians, when they observed the change, ceased fighting, and were alike anxious to have terms of peace agreed on.”



Book of Days – May 24 – The Congress
Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 4:32 PM

I haven’t had any particular writing for any day lately, and don’t really today, but as I was entertaining my daughter with this at lunch, I thought I’d share it here as well.  The only recording I could find has only a few of the verses, but I’ll share it here as well.

The Congress

Revolutionary Songs and Ballads

[Tory Song, to the tune of “Nancy Dawson.” Printed in Towne’s Evening Post. 1776.]

 

YE Tories all rejoice and sing
Success to George our gracious king;
The faithful subjects tribute bring
And execrate the Congress.

These hardy knaves and stupid fools,
Some apish and pragmatic mules,
Some servile acquiescing tools,—
These, these compose the Congress.

When Jove resolved to send a curse,
And all the woes of life rehearse,—
Not plague, not famine, but much worse,—
He cursed us with a Congress.

Then peace forsook this hapless shore;
Then cannons blazed with horrid roar;
We hear of blood, death, wounds and gore,
The offspring of the Congress.

Imperial Rome from scoundrels rose;
Her grandeur’s hailed in verse and prose;
Venice the dregs of sea compose;
So sprung the mighty Congress.

When insects vile emerge to light
They take their short inglorious flight,
Then sink again to native night:
An emblem of the Congress.

With freemen’s rights they wanton play;
At their command, we fast and pray;
With worthless paper they us pay;
A fine device of Congress.

With poverty and dire distress,
With standing armies us oppress;
Whole troops to Pluto swiftly press,
As victims to the Congress.

Time-serving priests to zealots preach,
Who king and parliament impeach;
Seditious lessons to us teach
At the command of Congress.

* * * * *

The world’s amazed to see the pest
The tranquil land with wars infest;
Britannia puts them to the test,
And tries the strength of Congress.

O goddess, hear our hearty prayers!
Confound the villains by the ears;
Disperse the plebeians—try the peers,
And execute the Congress.

See, see, our hope begins to dawn;
Bold Carleton scours the northern lawn;
The sons of faction sigh forlorn;
Dejected is the Congress.

Clinton, Burgoyne, and gallant Howe,
Will soon reward our conduct true,
And to each traitor give his due;
Perdition waits the Congress.

See noble Dunmore keeps his post;
Maraudes and ravages the coast;
Despises Lee and all his host,
That hair-brain tool of Congress.

There’s Washington and all his men—
Where Howe had one, the goose had ten—
Marched up the hill, and down again,
And sent returns to Congress.

Prepare, prepare, my friends prepare,
For scenes of blood, the field of war;
To royal standard we’ll repair,
And curse the haughty Congress.

Huzza! Huzza! we thrice huzza!
Return peace, harmony, and law!
Restore such times as once we saw
And bid adieu to Congress.



Book of Days – May 21 – Birth of Alexander Pope
Sunday, May 21, 2017, 5:40 AM

On this date in 1688, Alexander Pope was born in London.  Today’s writing is Pope’s poem The Universal Prayer.

Father of all! in every age,
    In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
    Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood:
    Who all my sense confined
To know but this—that thou art good,
    And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
    To see the good from ill;
And binding Nature fast in fate,
    Left free the human will.
What conscience dictates to be done,
    Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
    That, more than Heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
    Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
    To enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span,
    Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
    When thousand worlds are round:
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
    Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,
    On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
    Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, oh teach my heart
    To find a better way.
Save me alike from foolish pride,
    Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
    Or aught thy goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
    To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
    That mercy show to me.
Mean though I am, not wholly so
    Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me wheresoe’er I go,
    Through this day’s life or death.
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
    All else beneath the sun,
Thou know’st if best bestowed or not,
    And let thy will be done.
To thee, whose temple is all space,
    Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
    All Nature’s incense rise!



Book of Days – May 20 – Shakespeare’s Sonnets are First Published
Saturday, May 20, 2017, 5:20 AM

On this date in 1609, William Shakespeare’s Sonnets were first published in London by Thomas Thorpe.  Today’s writing is Sonnet 1, with the original spelling and typeset.

Sonnets1609titlepage 208x300 Book of Days   May 20   Shakespeares Sonnets are First Published

FRom faireſt creatures we deſire increaſe,
That thereby beauties Roſe might neuer die,
But as the riper ſhould by time deceaſe,
His tender heire might beare his memory:
But thou contracted to thine owne bright eyes,
Feed’ſt thy lights flame with ſelfe ſubſtantiall fewell,
Making a famine where aboundance lies,
Thy ſelfe thy foe,to thy ſweet ſelfe too cruell:
Thou that art now the worlds freſh ornament,
And only herauld to the gaudy ſpring,
Within thine owne bud burieſt thy content,
And tender chorle makſt waſt in niggarding:
Pitty the world,or elſe this glutton be,
To eate the worlds due,by the graue and thee.



Book of Days – May 19 – Beheading of Anne Boleyn
Friday, May 19, 2017, 5:54 AM

On this date in 1536, Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of the future Queen Elizabeth I, was beheading, having been convicted of adultery and incest.  Today’s writing is her last words, as recorded by Edward Hall’s and corroborated by John Foxe, George Wyatt and Lord Herbet of Canterbury. The YouTube video, while not verbatim, is nearly so, and the closest I could find to the text given below. In point of fact, there is some dispute as to what her last words actually were.  I do not offer these as certain, but only as one version of what she reportedly said.

 

“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul.’

She was then blindfolded and knelt, repeating until her death:
To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”



Book of Days – May 18 – Plessy v. Ferguson
Thursday, May 18, 2017, 8:16 AM

On this date in 1896, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, holding that “separate by equal” accommodations did not violate the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.  This decision was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education 58 years later, as was subject of yesterday’s Book of the Day post.  Today’s writing is an excerpt from the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson.

 

Portrait of Henry Billings Brown 200x300 Book of Days   May 18   Plessy v. Ferguson

Associate Justice Henry Billings Brown, author of the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson

 

Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

This case turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the general assembly of the state of Louisiana, passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races. Acts 1890, No. 111, p. 152.. . .

The information filed in the criminal district court charged, in substance, that Plessy, being a passenger between two stations within the state of Louisiana, was assigned by officers of the company to the coach used for the race to which he belonged, but he insisted upon going into a coach used by the race to which he did not belong. Neither in the information nor plea was his particular race or color averred.

The petition for the writ of prohibition averred that petitioner was seven-eights Caucasian and one-eighth African blood; that the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him; and that he was entitled to every right, privilege, and immunity secured to citizens of the United States of the white race; and that, upon such theory, he took possession of a vacant seat in a coach where passengers of the white race were accommodated, and was ordered by the conductor to vacate said coach, and take a seat in another, assigned to persons of the colored race, and, having refused to comply with such demand, he was forcibly ejected, with the aid of a police officer, and imprisoned in the parish jail to answer a charge of having violated the above act.

The constitutionality of this act is attacked upon the ground that it conflicts both with the thirteenth amendment of the constitution, abolishing slavery, and the fourteenth amendment, which prohibits certain restrictive legislation on the part of the states.

  1. That it does not conflict with the thirteenth amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except a punishment for crime, is too clear for argument. [This is then followed by an extensive argument for the proposition of the preceding sentence.]

A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races-a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color-has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races, or re-establish a state of involuntary servitude. Indeed, we do not understand that the thirteenth amendment is strenuously relied upon by the plaintiff in error in this connection.

  1. By the fourteenth amendment, all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are made citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside; and the states are forbidden from making or enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The proper construction of this amendment was first called to the attention of this court in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, which involved, however, not a question of race, but one of exclusive privileges. The case did not call for any expression of opinion as to the exact rights it was intended to secure to the colored race, but it was said generally that its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the negro, to give definitions of citizenship of the United States and of the states, and to protect from the hostile legislation of the states the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as distinguished from those of citizens of the states. The object of the amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but, in the nature of things, it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation, in places where they are liable to be brought into contact, do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power. The most common instance of this is connected with the establishment of separate schools for white and colored children, which have been held to be a valid exercise of the legislative power even by courts of states where the political rights of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly enforced.

One of the earliest of these cases is that of Roberts v. City of Boston, 5 Cush. 198, in which the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts held that the general school committee of Boston had power to make provision for the instruction of colored children in separate schools established exclusively for them, and to prohibit their attendance upon the other schools. ‘The great principle,’ said Chief Justice Shaw, ‘advanced by the learned and eloquent advocate for the plaintiff [Mr. Charles Sumner], is that, by the constitution and laws of Massachusetts, all persons, without distinction of age or sex, birth or color, origin or condition, are equal before the law. … But, when this great principle comes to be applied to the actual and various conditions of persons in society, it will not warrant the assertion that men and women are legally clothed with the same civil and political powers, and that children and adults are legally to have the same functions and be subject to the same treatment; but only that the rights of all, as they are settled and regulated by law, are equally entitled to the paternal consideration and protection of the law for their maintenance and security.’ It was held that the powers of the committee extended to the establishment of separate schools for children of different ages, sexes and colors, and that they might also establish special schools for poor and neglected children, who have become too old to attend the primary school, and yet have not acquired the rudiments of learning, to enable them to enter the ordinary schools. Similar laws have been enacted by congress under its general power of legislation over the District of Columbia (sections 281- 283, 310, 319, Rev. St. D. C.), as well as by the legislatures of many of the states, and have been generally, if not uniformly, sustained by the courts. [Citations omitted.]

[Other examples of laws making a distinction based on race which were upheld as constitutional are then discussed, including the Court’s opinion in the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 , 3 Sup. Ct. 18, in which it struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 as unconstitutional. The legal foundation of this decision was overturned in 1937 and many of the rights protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1875 were included in the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following this legal discussion is a section addressing the plaintiff’s argument that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional.]

So far, then, as a conflict with the fourteenth amendment is concerned, the case reduces itself to the question whether the statute of Louisiana is a reasonable regulation, and with respect to this there must necessarily be a large discretion on the part of the legislature. In determining the question of reasonableness, it is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good order. Gauged by this standard, we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable, or more obnoxious to the fourteenth amendment than the acts of congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia, the constitutionality of which does not seem to have been questioned, or the corresponding acts of state legislatures.

We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it. The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption. The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals. As was said by the court of appeals of New York in People v. Gallagher, 93 N. Y. 438, 448: ‘This end can neither be accomplished nor promoted by laws which conflict with the general sentiment of the community upon whom they are designed to operate. When the government, therefore, has secured to each of its citizens equal rights before the law, and equal opportunities for improvement and progress, it has accomplished the end for which it was organized, and performed all of the functions respecting social advantages with which it is endowed.’ Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts, or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation. If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.

It is true that the question of the proportion of colored blood necessary to constitute a colored person, as distinguished from a white person, is one upon which there is a difference of opinion in the different states; some holding that any visible admixture of black blood stamps the person as belonging to the colored race (State v. Chavers, 5 Jones [N. C.] 1); others, that it depends upon the preponderance of blood (Gray v. State, 4 Ohio, 354; Monroe v. Collins, 17 Ohio St. 665); and still others, that the predominance of white blood must only be in the proportion of three-fourths (People v. Dean, 14 Mich. 406; Jones v. Com., 80 Va. 544). But these are questions to be determined under the laws of each state, and are not properly put in issue in this case. Under the allegations of his petition, it may undoubtedly become a question of importance whether, under the laws of Louisiana, the petitioner belongs to the white or colored race.

The judgment of the court below is therefore affirmed.



Book of Days – May 17 – Brown v. Board of Education
Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 10:09 AM

On this date in 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring separate schools based on race “inherently unequal”.  Today’s writing is the Court’s unanimous opinion.

Warren Court 1953 300x205 Book of Days   May 17   Brown v. Board of Education

The Warren Court that decided Brown v. Board of Education

 

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases come to us from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. They are premised on different facts and different local conditions, but a common legal question justifies their consideration together in this consolidated opinion.

In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a nonsegregated basis. In each instance, they had been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race. This segregation was alleged to deprive the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, a three-judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs on the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 . Under that doctrine, equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though these facilities be separate. In the Delaware case, the Supreme Court of Delaware adhered to that doctrine, but ordered that the plaintiffs be admitted to the white schools because of their superiority to the Negro schools.

The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Because of the obvious importance of the question presented, the Court took jurisdiction. Argument was heard in the 1952 Term, and reargument was heard this Term on certain questions propounded by the Court.

Reargument was largely devoted to the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. It covered exhaustively consideration of the Amendment in Congress, ratification by the states, then existing practices in racial segregation, and the views of proponents and opponents of the Amendment. This discussion and our own investigation convince us that, although these sources cast some light, it is not enough to resolve the problem with which we are faced. At best, they are inconclusive. The most avid proponents of the post-War Amendments undoubtedly intended them to remove all legal distinctions among “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Their opponents, just as certainly, were antagonistic to both the letter and the spirit of the Amendments and wished them to have the most limited effect. What others in Congress and the state legislatures had in mind cannot be determined with any degree of certainty.

An additional reason for the inconclusive nature of the Amendment’s history, with respect to segregated schools, is the status of public education at that time. In the South, the movement toward free common schools, supported by general taxation, had not yet taken hold. Education of white children was largely in the hands of private groups. Education of Negroes was almost nonexistent, and practically all of the race were illiterate. In fact, any education of Negroes was forbidden by law in some states. Today, in contrast, many Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences as well as in the business and professional world. It is true that public school education at the time of the Amendment had advanced further in the North, but the effect of the Amendment on Northern States was generally ignored in the congressional debates. Even in the North, the conditions of public education did not approximate those existing today. The curriculum was usually rudimentary; ungraded schools were common in rural areas; the school term was but three months a year in many states; and compulsory school attendance was virtually unknown. As a consequence, it is not surprising that there should be so little in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment relating to its intended effect on public education.

In the first cases in this Court construing the Fourteenth Amendment, decided shortly after its adoption, the Court interpreted it as proscribing all state-imposed discriminations against the Negro race. The doctrine of “separate but equal” did not make its appearance in this Court until 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, supra, involving not education but transportation. American courts have since labored with the doctrine for over half a century. In this Court, there have been six cases involving the “separate but equal” doctrine in the field of public education. In Cumming v. County Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528 , and Gong Lum v. Rice, 275 U.S. 78 , the validity of the doctrine itself was not challenged. In more recent cases, all on the graduate school level, inequality was found in that specific benefits enjoyed by white students were denied to Negro students of the same educational qualifications. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 ; Sipuel v. Oklahoma, 332 U.S. 631 ; Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 ; McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 . In none of these cases was it necessary to re-examine the doctrine to grant relief to the Negro plaintiff. And in Sweatt v. Painter, supra, the Court expressly reserved decision on the question whether Plessy v. Ferguson should be held inapplicable to public education.

In the instant cases, that question is directly presented. Here, unlike Sweatt v. Painter, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors. Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education.

In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back to 1868 when the Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.

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.

In Sweatt v. Painter, supra, in finding that a segregated law school for Negroes could not provide them equal educational opportunities, this Court relied in large part on “those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school.” In McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, supra, the Court, in requiring that a Negro admitted to a white graduate school be treated like all other students, again resorted to intangible considerations: “. . . his ability to study, to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession.” Such considerations apply with added force to children in grade and high schools. To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The effect of this separation on their educational opportunities was well stated by a finding in the Kansas case by a court which nevertheless felt compelled to rule against the Negro plaintiffs:

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.”

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.

Because these are class actions, because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity. On reargument, the consideration of appropriate relief was necessarily subordinated to the primary question – the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. In order that we may have the full assistance of the parties in formulating decrees, the cases will be restored to the docket, and the parties are requested to present further argument on Questions 4 and 5 previously propounded by the Court for the reargument this Term. The Attorney General of the United States is again invited to participate. The Attorneys General of the states requiring or permitting segregation in public education will also be permitted to appear as amici curiae upon request to do so by September 15, 1954, and submission of briefs by October 1, 1954.

It is so ordered.


« Newer PostsOlder Posts »