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Dred Scott vs. Sandford Dred Scott was a slave in the United States who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857. His case was based on the fact that he and his wife Harriet had been slaves, but had lived in states where slavery was illegal. The United States Supreme Court ruled seven to two against Scott, finding that people of African descent who had once been slaves, and even their descendants who had never been slaves, were not legal persons and could never claim citizenship in the United States. This meant that Scott did not have the right to bring suit in federal court. The Supreme Court judged that Scott's temporary residence in states where slavery was illegal did not mean that he should be freed from slavery in all states, since reaching that result would deprive Scott's owner (who was in a slave-owning state) of his property. Essentially, the Supreme Court had ruled that slaves, as chattel (property) could not be taken away from their owners. Plessy vs. Ferguson On June 7 1892 Homer Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad that was for use by Whites only. Although Plessy was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under Louisiana state law he was classified as an African-American, and was therefore required to sit in the "colored" car. When Plessy refused to leave the white car he was arrested and jailed. In his case Plessy argued that the East Louisiana Railroad had denied him his rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. However, the judge presiding over his case, Ferguson, ruled that Louisiana had the right to regulate railroad companies as long as they operated within state boundaries. Plessy then took his case to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, who upheld Judge Ferguson's ruling. Undaunted, Plessy appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1896. It would become one of the most famous decisions in American history. In a 7 to 1 decision the Court rejected Plessy's arguments based on the Fourteenth Amendment, seeing no way in which the Louisiana statute violated it. In addition, the majority of the Court rejected the view that the Louisiana law implied any inferiority of Blacks. Instead, it contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy. When summarizing, Justice Brown declared that segregation of the races did not imply inferiority of Blacks. While the Court did not find a difference in quality between the whites-only and blacks-only railway cars, this was of course clearly untrue in the case of most other separate facilities, such as public toilets and cafés, where the facilities designated for blacks were poorer than those designated for whites. Justice Harlan, an ex-slave owner who became a champion for Black civil rights after witnessing terrible KKK behaviour, scathingly argued that the court’s decision would be infamous. He pointed out that the US Constitution should be colour blind and all citizens should be equal before the law. The case helped create the doctrine of “separate but equal”, the idea that segregation based on classifications was legal as long as facilities were of equal quality. However, Southern state governments refused to provide Blacks with genuinely equal facilities and resources in the years after the Plessy decision. The states not only separated races but, in actuality, ensured differences in quality. In January 1896, Homer Plessy pled guilty to the violation and paid the fine. Brown vs. Board of Education Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court, which overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. It declared that state laws which established separate schools for Black and White students denied Black children equal educational opportunities. As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This victory paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement. For much of the ninety years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation. This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were "equal," segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment ("no State shall deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.") In 1951 thirteen Topeka (in Kansas) parents filed a class action suit on behalf of their children against the Board of Education. These plaintiffs in the Brown case argued that the “separate but equal” policy did not result in equal treatment for Blacks because the education their children were receiving was clearly inferior to that of White children in Topeka. The named plaintiff, Oliver L. Brown, and the other parents argued before the District Court that black school were not equal to white schools. For example, the State of Mississippi spent $98.15 p.a. on each white pupil, but only $43.14 p.a. on each black pupil. The District Court did not find in the parents’ favour, so they took the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that the segregation of children in public schools was damaging, and African American children were being made to feel inferior. The doctrine of “separate but equal” was therefore defeated and it was a victory for the civil rights movement. The decision was known throughout the country within hours and the reaction in the South was bitter. Many States in the South refused to desegregate their schools, and even as late as 1964 91% of black children across seventeen Southern states still attended segregated schools. Despite this, the victory had shown the NAACP that the Supreme Court could overturn prejudiced decisions made in the District Courts and that it was possible to achieve civil rights through the peaceful mechanism of the law courts.