How did Jim Crow laws contribute to social unrest in the United States and what role did the Supreme Court play?
The term Jim Crow refers to the systematic segregation of the black and white races, primarily in the South. Segregation was deemed legal by the Supreme Court in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Case. The case ruled that segregation was legal and established the "separate but equal" clause. This meant that segregation was legal as long as equal treatment was given to black people in the separate institutions. The fact that this equality rarely existed caused political and social unrest in the 1950's and 1960's.
It was during these two decades that protest and unrest were at its height in the area of race relations. Many highly publicized acts of rebellion were centered around the injustice of segregation. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that was sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks, to the sit-ins at local diners, segregation was at the center of social unrest. Hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan were there with violence at every step of the way to stop any hint at ending segregation.
It was the federal government, through the courts, that would be the catalyst for ending segregation. A number of challenges to segregation would make their way to the Supreme Court in the period that followed World War II. Morgan vs. Virginia (1946) and Shelly vs. Kraemer (1948) outlawed discrimination in busing and housing respectively. The greatest victory in the courts was the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case that outlawed segregation in public schools and effectively overturned the Plessy vs. Ferguson case. Despite these victories in court, social unrest did not come to a halt as some whites still challenged the authority of the courts. This time, though, the federal government could use the law, court decisions, and the National Guard to enforce integration.
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