Equal Protection under the Law

Slavery in the United States of America was made legal in a ruling of the Supreme Court, in the year 1857 by Justice Taney. It was in a case involving Scott, a slave, who had been held as a slave since 1834. Scott had filed a suit to secure his freedom from slavery in Missouri, arguing that he was entitled to freedom in a free country where slavery had been forbidden. It is here that Scott’s residence was located, in Illinois. However, the judgment of chief justice in disapproval of the plaintiff held that Scott, because of his afro-American descent, was not qualified to be a citizen of America. Therefore, he was disqualified to file any suit before the court (Harris, 2003).

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In 1896, the Supreme Court guided by the ruling of Justice Henry Brown, gave a much rather different ruling than that of 1857 by Justice Taney. Here, the verdict was brought forth in regard to the plaintiff, Mr. Plessey.  The ruling established the famous cohesive statement, “separate but equal”, although it erupted violence instead of cohesion (Harris, 2003). Justice Henry Brown was of the opinion that separation of races was not a demonstration of inequality in social standing, whatsoever. The court, while delivering the verdict, expressed the need to have equal facilities on both sides of the races, it was not put in practice (Rodriguez, 2007). The first decision of the court inspired a widespread violence across the country, causing debates which were not anticipated. The afro-Americans were treated with inferiority because of this ruling, instigating a lot of violence.

Consequently, the decision delivered by Justice Brown, did not address problems caused by previous rulings. The fact that, segregation was still lawful is a problem that saw more violent behavior being vented towards the ruling (Rodriguez, 2007). The idea that different races should be separate, but remain equal was not received well among the afro-Americans. In resistance towards this ruling, the Afro-Americans remained violent at the slightest provocation in regard to inequality. The question of inequality was, therefore, never addressed.


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