The 14th Amendment of the United States

The 14th Amendment

The fourteenth amendment is a constitutional amendment that was passed in the United States of America after the end of the civil war during the reconstruction Era (Teacher’s Domain 1). The amendment clearly defined the citizenship of Americans, their state jurisdiction, conditions that had to be met, or an individual to run for any post within the government, and the subject with regards to the validity of the public debt. Most importantly, the amendment gave Congress the power to come up with statutes and laws that would govern the people of the United States. However, these laws need to be formulated using legal rules and procedures to ensure that they are fair and to ensure that they assist Americans in enjoying their rights to life, liberty, and property (Klarman 336).

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With these facts in mind, African Americans and other minority communities in the United States were deprived of their rights. The 14th amendment gave legislators the power to develop laws and clauses that led to racial segregation in the United States. Almost all of the videos focused on the Jim Crow Laws. These laws were put into practice in the USA between 1876 and 1965. The main aim of this law was to segregate the utilization of White Americans and African Americans in the Southern States.

However, these laws had a clause, ‘separate but equal,’ which ensured that the White Americans and African Americans would be utilizing different facilities that are equal. However, with time, it was evident that the facilities of White Americans were way superior as compared to the facilities enjoyed by African Americans. This led to the development of mass demonstrations and the filing of civil suits by African Americans who felt that their rights as citizens of the United States of America had been infringed.

What was the impact of Plessy v. Ferguson on education throughout the United States?

In June 1962, Homer Plessy, an African American, bought a train ticket and deliberately sat in the White American section even though he was colored. This move was not an accident as Plessy and The Citizen Committee of New Orleans plotted the move so that Plessy would be convicted of violating the Supreme Car Act of 1890 (Lofgren 3). Their main aim was for the case to reach the Supreme Court.

At the first trial, the case was heard by Judge John Ferguson who held that Plessy had violated the Supreme Car Act. He also concluded that the separate but equal clause was constitutional. The case was then referred to the Supreme Court in 1896 where all the judges except one rules in favor of the law. Judge John Marshall, who voted against the ruling stated that the constitution is colorblind hence, it should not any form of segregation. It is from this case that many African Americans and other minorities started to fight for equality even in the education sector.

How did officials determine which school a child would attend in Mendez v. Westminster?

Since the 1930s, the population of Mexicans had commenced increasing. However, just like African Americans, Mexican Americans were also considered as minorities, therefore, the laws of segregation applied to them as well. Therefore, in the case of Mendez v. Westminster, Mexican Americans had their special schools that were segregated from White Americans (Blanco 3).

What were the schools like at the time of Mendez v. Westminster?

During the time of Mendez v. Westminster, schools were segregated in terms of race. There were schools for White American children, Mexican Americans, and African Americans. Even though these schools were segregated and that White American schools had better amenities and facilities, the law still held that these schools were separate but equal (Blanco 4). However, in the real sense, White American children were enjoying much more privileges in school as compared to African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other minority communities.

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Provide two specific examples of life in America during the period in which these happened?

During this time, life in America was characterized by racial segregation in public facilities. White Americans did not share the same facilities as African Americans. This law affected the ease at which African Americans and other minority communities accessed education, accommodation, employment, drinking and dining services, transport services, and so on. Despite the law held that there was equality in the separation, it was evident that the facilities enjoyed by White Americans were much more superior as compared to what African Americans had. Consequently, people of Japanese descent had been interned as per the Roosevelt Executive Order 9066 during the Second World War.

Based on all the cases why were public schools segregated?

The separate but equal laws were enacted to separate African Americans from White Americans because it was believed that the interaction of these individuals will lead to the development of equality among them. Consequently, continued interaction will lead to African Americans dating White Americans. As a result, marriages between the two races would increase and their children, who would be neither white nor colored, would dominate the United States of America hence leading to the demise of the White race.

What law did Homer Plessy violate?

Homer Plessy violated the Supreme Car Act of 1890 that was passed by the state of Louisiana (Lofgren 3). This law was passed to ensure that White Americans and African Americans were segregated in public transport even though they might be using a similar facility such as a train for example. In such an event, some carriages were designated for African Americans and White Americans.

If you were Plessy’s lawyer how would you justify your claim that the “Separate Car Act” violates the 13th and 14th Amendments?

The Supreme Car Act of 1890 had violated the 13th and 14th amendment of the United States of America in the sense that it deprived individuals of certain communities (African Americans and other minorities) the right to enjoy public facilities although they were citizens of the United States of America. As a result, therefore, this act amounts to the violation of the equal protection clause of the 13th and 14th amendment (Laderman 21). Therefore, by the constitution, Plessy was not supposed to give up his right to public access.

Can you think of an example or situation where separation does not mean inequality?

As long as access to public facilities is put into consideration, segregation of any kind results in inequality. The only exception that I can think of is the segregation of access to restrooms based on gender where males and females have separate restrooms. This separation gives individuals of different gender their privacy. However, when segregation is based on class, race, or, religion, it will never be equal and thus, it will result in the violation of the 13th and 14th Amendments of the constitution.

Is it possible for two races to remain separated while striving for equality?

Two races can’t remain separated while fighting for equality. During the Civil Rights Era, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other minorities had different movements and bodies that fought for their rights. However, these individuals collectively came together to air their grievances against the laws that supported segregation. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where he addressed the issue of racism in America where the members of all races were present. This showed that these individuals faced a common problem that could only be solved if they worked together.

Besides Mendez v. Westminster case what other cities and states were involved in court battles to end public school segregation? How are the cases alike? How are they different?

The state of California is regarded as the first state within the United States to bring an end to racial segregation in schools as a result of the ruling that was passed in the case of Mendez v. Westminster (Blanco 4). However, before this ruling, the case of Sweatt v. Painter had been heard by the state of Texas. Unlike most common cases where the case files involved K-12 students, this case involved college admission.

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Herman Sweatt, an African American postman had applied for admission at the University Of Texas School Of Law. However, his application was denied on the grounds of his race. Not satisfied with the decision, Sweatt filed a suit against the university in 1946, since he believed that the actions of the university had violated his equal protection rights under the 14th amendment (Clarkin 1). The courts held that either the university admits Sweatt or the university comes up with a separate but equal law school for African American students. Although the case was referred to the Supreme Court, the doctrine of separate but equal was not overruled.

Why was the Hernandez v. Texas case so important to the Mexican-American civil rights movement? How does the 14th Amendment apply to this case? How do Mexican Americans see the 14th Amendment as a way to get their rights respected? Why do some states say it does not apply to Mexican Americans?

In 1950, Joe Hernandez, an immigrant cotton picker was charged with murder. His conviction led to the famous case, Hernandez v. Texas. Although Jackson County had a high population of Mexican Americans, no Mexican had ever served on the jury for over 25 years (Utopia 1). According to Gustavo Garcia, the lawyer who represented Joe Hernandez, the discrimination and segregation that was being experienced in Jackson County did not only affect race but social class as well.

Therefore, this action violated the 14th amendment that protected the rights of individuals irrespective of their class or race. Therefore, through the 14th amendment, Mexican Americans fought for their rights for equal representation. However, other states in the USA especially in the south regarded White Americans as an Elite class within the society. Hernandez v. Texas played a critical role in the inclusion of Mexican Americans in the jury system.

Why was the petitioner rejected in Sweatt v. Painter?

In the case of Sweatt v. Texas, the petitioner was rejected because he was an African American. According to the court’s ruling, separate but equal did not result in the violation of the constitution.

What are the connections between legislative acts and Supreme Court decisions in all of these cases?

The legislative acts of these cases held that separate but equal acts did not violate either the 13th or the 14th amendment. Before the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the rulings that had been passed by the U.S Supreme Court held that separate but equal rights did not violate the constitution.

What were the most significant points made in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka compared to Mendez v. Westminster?

The main point that was presented in the case of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka was that separate educational facilities for members of different races were inherently unequal. The case also had social and ideological implications that played a critical role in fighting for civil rights.

Why might it have taken nearly sixty years for the Supreme Court to get to its current interpretation of the 14th Amendment? What might this suggest about the importance of looking at the historical context of Supreme Court rulings?

It took the Supreme Court over 60 years to get the correct interpretation of the 14th amendment after determining the effects that segregation had on the lives of individuals of different races. The historical Supreme Court rulings played a critical role in developing the full and concise interpretation of the 14th amendment.

How did segregation for Mexican Americans differ from the segregation of African Americans?

Mexican Americans were segregated based on their class. African Americans on the other hand were segregated based on their race. Despite the difference in segregation, both communities were deprived of their rights as US citizens under the 14th Amendment.

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Works Cited

Blanco,Mendez. “Before Brown, There was Mendez. The Lasting Impact of Mendez v. Westminster in the Struggle for Desegregation.” Immigration Policy Center 3.2(2010): 1-6. Print.

Clarkin, Thomas. “Sweatt v. Painter.” Encyclopedia of Civil Rights of America 3.1 (1998): 841-842. Print.

Klarman, Michael. “The Plessy Era.” The Supreme Court Review 2.1 (1998): 303-414. Print.

Laderman, Green. Religion and American Cultures: An Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity, and Popular Expressions, Santa Barbra, ABC-CLIO, 2003. Print.

Lofgren, Charles. The Plessy Case: A Legal-Historical Interpretation, New York, Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

Teacher’s Domain, n.d., Amendment XIV. Web.

Utopia, n.d., Hernandez v. State of Texas (1954). Web.

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