Brown v. Board of Education: Document C, Majority Opinion, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Do you use document-based questions in your classroom?

This fall the Bill of Rights Institute is blogging a document-based question on the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Each weekly post will feature an excerpted document related to the case, along with some questions to guide your thinking on it. Each document should be used to address the question: “Assess the role played by the Court as the protector of individual rights against the tyranny of the majority in Brown v. Board of Education.”

Check out our previous posts for Document A, an excerpt from the Virginia criminal code; and Document B, a section of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Majority Opinion, Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 

The object of the [Fourteenth] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a co-mingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.…

Laws permitting, and even requiring, the separation [of races] in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power….

>Restate this opinion in your own words.

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Check back each week to see the next document and how it might change your thinking on this important question that affects all public school teachers and students in the U.S.! If you are enjoying this DBQ – be sure to check out our curriculum Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases the Changed History.

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