The Supreme Court in a Free Society

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview

XII
EQUAL PROTECTION OF LAWS

IN 1937-41, WHEN THE RECONstituted Supreme Court minimized due process as a substantive safeguard for property rights, "equal protection" entered a period of tremendous growth, climaxed in 1954 by the Court's decision abolishing segregation in public school systems. There was little in the Court's interpretation of the clause in its first 70 years to suggest this dramatic development, attributable both to vastly changed circumstances and a more progressive judicial view of the rights of minorities.

One of the most persistent ideas attending the proposal and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment was that the states defeated in war should be deprived constitutionally of their power to discriminate against the emancipated Negroes and their white protectors. From first draft to last, all legislative formulations of the Amendment contained a clause embodying the concept of equal protection. Its advocates viewed the clause as an answer to those persons, including President Johnson, who had expressed serious

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