The Warren Court and American Politics

By Lucas A. Powe Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Brown

In the beginning there was Brown v. Board of Education. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Warren concluded that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” In placing his name on the opinion, Warren had done what chief justices since the legendary John Marshall had always done. In great and controversial cases, where the Court’s prestige is on the line, the Court speaks through the chief justice. Those needs were apparent in Brown. The justices were not only overruling more than a half century of constitutional law stemming from Plessy v. Ferguson, they were going where no court had ever gone before: to dismantle an entrenched social order. Normally, such a transformation occurs only in the aftermath of wartime defeat. Accordingly, they knew that defiance and violence were likely by-products of their action. As Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote, “Brown may be the most important political, social, and legal event in America’s twentieth century history. Its greatness lay in the enormity of injustice it condemned, in the entrenched sentiment it challenged, in the immensity of law it both created and overthrew.”1


The Process

Brown and its companion cases were reargued in December 1953, two months after Vinson’s successor Warren took the center seat. During those two months, Warren had asked Black, the senior associate, to lead the Conference. But when Brown was discussed, Black was absent, and Warren for the first time exercised his prerogative to speak first in the conference room where the justices, with no others present, discuss cases.

Warren requested that the Brethren take no vote and avoid hardened positions, stating they would discuss the segregation cases in Conference

-27-

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The Warren Court and American Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 - The Supreme Court, 1935–1953 1
  • I Beginnings the 1953–1956 Jerms 19
  • Chapter 2 - Brown 27
  • Chapter 3 - Implementation 50
  • Chapter 4 - Domestic Security 75
  • Chapter 5 - Glimpses of the Future 104
  • II Stalemate the 1957–1961 Jerms 125
  • Chapter 6 - Domestic Security after Red Monday 135
  • Chapter 7 - Little Rock and Civil Rights 157
  • Chapter 8 - The Transition 179
  • III History's Warren Court the 1962–1968 Terms 207
  • Chapter 9 - To the Civil Rights Act 217
  • Chapter 10 - Revamping the Democratic Process 239
  • Chapter 11 - After the Civil Rights Act 272
  • Chapter 12 - Freedom of Expression 303
  • Chapter 13 - The End of Obscenity? 336
  • Chapter 14 - Church and State in a Pluralist Society 358
  • Chapter 15 - Policing the Police 379
  • Chapter 16 - Policing the Criminal Justice System 412
  • Chapter 17 - Wealth and Poverty 445
  • IV the Era Ends 463
  • Chapter 18 - The Last Year 467
  • Chapter 19 - What Was the Warren Court? 485
  • Chronology 503
  • Notes 511
  • Bibliography 533
  • Index of Cases 539
  • General Index 549
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