The SCOTUS blog is having some posts about the U.S. Supreme Court and race. One is a nice discussion of two decisions from the 19th Century limiting the scope of the Reconstruction Amendments by Robert Cottrol, a professor of law and history at George Washington University. It begins:
Chances are if you went to law school sometime in the last half-century you absorbed a certain narrative about race and the Supreme Court. The Court was the hero of that narrative. Its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education cut through the Gordian knot that had long stifled racial progress in the nation. The decision, the first act of the new Warren Court, gave strength and heart to the postwar Civil Rights movement and ultimately courage to the political branches. It helped precipitate a civil rights revolution, one in which the law went from being an active abetter of American-style apartheid, Jim Crow, to being the chief vehicle for attacking racial discrimination. The Court’s school desegregation decision would become exhibit A in the argument for a robust view of the judicial power. The decision would also give the Supreme Court a moral authority that has increased in the ensuing decades with greater national acceptance of the 1954 decision.
That narrative is true as far as it goes. And yet Brown and the undoubted boost that it gave to the cause of racial justice in postwar America have served to obscure an unpleasant truth. If the Supreme Court played an important Continue reading SCOTUS blog legal history post about the Supreme Court and civil rights in the late 19thC