Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation

By John P. Jackson Jr. | Go to book overview

5
Pre-Brown Litigation

By the time the campaign to desegregate elementary and secondary education began in 1951, the NAACP-LDEF was a sophisticated user of social science material in court briefs and had at least some experience with presenting social scientists as expert witnesses in the area of segregation. For the School Segregation Cases that culminated in the Supreme Court decision in Brown, the NAACP-LDEF relied on a specific network of social scientists, centered primarily in New York and many with ties to the American Jewish Congress. The School Segregation Cases had their origins in the 1930s, when the NAACP decided to begin a legal campaign to eliminate segregated education.


Background of the Litigation Campaign

In 1896, the United States Supreme Court held in Plessy v. Ferguson that laws requiring separate railcars for white and African American passengers were a reasonable exercise of state power and did not violate the equal protection provisions of the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Court held that

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 sepa-
rate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia, the constitu-
tionality of which does not seem to have been questioned, or the corre-
sponding acts of state legislatures.1

Though the Court was simply affirming a long line of lower court decisions that upheld the constitutionality of segregated facilities, the status of the Supreme Court entrenched the doctrine of separate-but-equal in

-79-

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Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 15
  • 2 - The Study of Race between the Wars 17
  • 3 - The Effect of World War II on the Study of Racial Prejudice 43
  • Part II - Forging the Alliance 61
  • 4 - The American Jewish Congress 63
  • 5 - Pre-Brown Litigation 79
  • Part III - Brown Litigation 107
  • 6 - Recruiting Expert Witnesses 109
  • 7 - Testimony of the Experts 125
  • 8 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown I 153
  • 9 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown II 182
  • Part IV - Dissolution 197
  • 10 - Committee of Social Science Consultants 199
  • 11 - Conclusion 213
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 285
  • About the Author 291
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