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CHAPTER II. SEGREGATION AND OPINION, MAY 1954
FOUR GROUPS OF STATES: THE LEGAL VIEW
Immediately prior to the Supreme Court decision in the School Segregation Cases:
I. Sixteen States were prohibiting school segregation by constitutional provision, statute, or court decision.1
II. Eleven States had no constitutional or statutory provision in the matter.2
III. Four States were permitting segregation in varying degrees or under specified conditions.3
IV. Seventeen States were requiring segregation by constitutional or statutory provision.*
In addition to the 17 States in the fourth group, the District of Columbia operated completely segregated schools in a dual system authorized by Congress. This practice was condemned on the same date as was segregation in the 17 States.
In these 17 States and the District of Columbia (for convenience these will be called the "Segregating States"), complete segregation prevailed in elementary and secondary schools-except in some communities having only a few Negro children to educate from time to time.5
1 Colorado: Colo. Const. art. IX, sec. 8; Connecticut: Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-15 (Revision of 1958); Idaho: Idaho Const. art. IX, sec. 6; Illinois: Ill. Ann. Stat. ch. 122, sec. 6-37, (Smith-Hurd); Indiana: Ind. Ann. Stat. sec. 28-5156 (Supp.); Iowa: Iowa Const. art. IX, sec. 12; Massachusetts: Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 151C, sec. 2(a); Michigan: Mich. Stat. Ann. sec. 15.3355; Minnesota: Minn. Stat. Ann. sec. 126.08; New Jersey: N.J. Stat. Ann. 18:14-2; New York: N.Y. Educ. Laws sec. 3201; Ohio: Board of Education v. State, 45 Ohio St. 555 (1888); Pennsylvania: Purdon's Pa. Stat. Ann. t. 24, sec. 13-1310; Rhode Island: R.I. Gen. Laws sec. 16-38-1 (1956); Washington: Wash. Const. art. IX, sec. 1; Wisconsin: Wis. Stat. Ann., sec. 40.51.
2 California, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.
3 Arizona: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. sec. 15-442(b) (1956); Kansas: Kans. Gen. Stat. Ann. sec. 72-1724 (1940); New Mexico: N.M. Stat. Ann. sec. 73-13-1 (1953); Wyoming: Wyo. Comp. Stat. Ann. 67-624.
Alabama: Ala. Const. art. XIV, sec. 256; Arkansas: Ark. Stat. Ann. sec. 80-509 (1947); Delaware: Del. Const. art. X, sec. 2; Florida: Fla. Stat. Ann. sec. 228.09; Georgia: Ga. Const. art. VIII, sec. 2-6401; Kentucky: Ky. Rev. Stat. sec. 158.020 (1953); Louisiana: La. Const. art. XII, sec. 1; Maryland: Md. Ann. Code. art. 77, secs, 130, 218; Mississippi: Miss. Const. art. VIII, sec. 207; Missouri: Mo. Const. art. IX, sec. 1(a); North Carolina: N.C. Const. art. IX, sec. 2; Oklahoma: Okla. Const. art. XIII, sec. 3; South Carolina: S.C. Const. art. XI, sec. 7; Tennessee: Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 49-1005; Texas: Tex. Const. art. VII, sec. 7; Virginia: Va. Const. sec. 140; West Virginia: W. Va. Const. art. XII, sec. 8. e.g. “. . . It is a tradition in Maryland that in the years past from time to time a half dozen or more colored children in Garrett County were simply enrolled in white schools and regarded as white. I do not know this to be a fact but it is generally accepted as being true." Report of Maryland State Superintendent of Schools to Commission, April 15, 1959, p. 5. "More than one southern school district found it necessary long ago to accept mixed attendance to some degree for the reason that there wasn't enough Negro pupils to justify separate facilities." (The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Okla., June
Of the four States permitting segregation in varying degrees or under specified conditions (for convenience, these will be called the "Permissive States"), only three had any segregated schools. And desegregation had commenced in those States a year and more before the Supreme Court decision."
REACTIONS OF THE PRESS
Press comment on the Supreme Court decision of May 17, 1954, varied predictably in different sections of the country.
From the States where segregation had long been banned by law came warm editorial praise.
The Detroit Free Press: "Those citizens of the United States who cherish the belief that the American concept of democracy is a vital, living, organic philosophy, slowly but inexorably advancing toward the ideals of the founders of this Union, will be heartened by the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in the historic school segregation case."
The Minneapolis Morning Tribune: "The court's momentous decision will be welcomed and embraced by all who believe that the constitutional guarantee of equal rights means just that, and nothing less." "
The Denver Post: "Such an opinion had to be reached eventually in a country founded on the belief that 'all men are created free and equal'.” '
The New York Times: "The highest court in the land, the guardian of our national conscience, has reaffirmed its faith-and the undying American faith in the equality of all men and all children before the law." 10
Commendation came also from the press of other States where segregation had not been generally practiced for many years although it was not expressly prohibited by law in 1954. A San Francisco editor declared:
The Majesty of the democratic idea that men are created equal and are entitled to the equal protection of the laws shines through yesterday's unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court holding segregation in the public schools unconstitutional."
Another far-western paper, The Oregonian of Portland, noted that the injustice of segregation was nationwide, but on the wane.12
In the Permissive States, the press was inclined to acknowledge the justice of the decision while emphasizing its great impact upon the Segregating States.
The Arizona Republic (Phoenix): “The decision comes at a time in our history when the Nation needs to reaffirm its basic concept of liberty. . . . [But] to read
The State of Wyoming provided by statute for segregation in any school district enrolling fifteen or more Negro pupils, in spite of a constitutional provision clearly forbidding segregation. So far as is known, the permission of the statute was never used. The law was repealed in 1955. (Wyo. Sess. Laws 1955 ch. 36, p. 28.)
7 May 19, 1954.
May 18, 1954.
May 18, 1954.
10 May 18, 1954.
11 San Francisco Chronicle, May 18, 1954.
13 May 19, 1954.