When a slave petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for his freedom, the Court ruled against him—also ruling that the Bill of Rights didn"t apply to African Americans. If it did, the majority ruling argued, then African Americans would be permitted "the full liberty of speech in public and in private," "to hold public meetings upon political affairs," and "to keep and carry arms wherever they went." In 1856, both the justices in the majority and the white aristocracy they represented found this idea too horrifying to contemplate. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment made it law. What a difference a war makes!
Q: When did the Civil Rights Act, which mandated an end to racial segregation in public accommodations, pass? A: Twice. Once in 1875, and once in 1964.
When three black families in Richmond County, Virginia faced the closing of the area"s only public black high school, they petitioned the Court to allow their children to finish their education at the white high school instead. It only took the Supreme Court three years to violate its own "separate but equal" standard by establishing that if there was no suitable black school in a given district, black students would simply have to do without an education. More »
An Indian-American U.S. Army veteran named Bhagat Singh Thind attempted the same strategy as Takeo Ozawa, but his attempt at naturalization was rejected in a ruling establishing that Indians, too, are not white. Well, the ruling technically referred to "Hindus" (ironic considering that Thind was actually a Sikh, not a Hindu), but the terms were used interchangeably at the time. Three years later he was quietly granted citizenship in New York; he went on to earn a Ph.D. and teach at the University of California at Berkeley.
In 1924, Congress passed the Oriental Exclusion Act to dramatically reduce immigration from Asia—but Asian Americans born in the United States were still citizens, and one of these citizens, a