Brown v. Louisiana During the 1960’s, many African-Americans believed that civil rights should become a national priority. Young civil rights activists brought their cause to the national stage and demanded the federal government assist them and help resolve the issues that plagued them. Many of them challenged segregation in the South by protesting at stores and schools that practiced segregation. Despite the efforts of these groups and Supreme Court rulings that ordered the desegregation of buses and bus stations, violence and prejudice against African-Americans in the South continued (Meyer, F. S. , 1968). In the 1960’s many things were off limits to African-Americans. They weren’t revered as equals and suffered greatly because of it. There’s an unfamiliar case to most that took place in Louisiana that helped shaped the use of public facilities for all people. This case is known as Brown v. Louisiana. The Audubon Regional Library in Clinton, Louisiana, Parish of East Feliciana did not serve blacks. Blacks, at that time, were expected to use one of two bookmobiles. The red bookmobile served whites and the blue bookmobile served blacks. On March 7, 1964, five young African-American males entered the adult reading room and one of the men, Brown, requested a book called, “The Story of the Negro,” by Arna Bontemps. The assistant librarian checked the card catalogue and discovered that the library did not have the book. She told Brown that she would request it from the state library and he could either have it mailed to his home address or he could pick it up from the bookmobile. After the men had been given the news about the book they sat down quietly. After the men failed to leave the library, the assistant librarian requested that they go. They did not. Brown sat down while the others stood nearby. The assistant librarian then went to the head librarian who requested them to leave as well. Again, they did not. A few moments later, the sheriff arrived and requested that they leave again, and again, they did not. The sheriff arrested them and charged them with the intention to provoke a breach of peace and failure to leave a public building when ordered to do so (Coates, R. , 2005). The five men were tried and found guilty. Brown was sentenced to pay $150 for court costs or spend 90 days in jail. The four other men were sentenced to $35 for court costs or 15 days in jail. Under Louisiana law, the convictions weren’t appealable therefore; their requests for discretionary reviews were denied. The Supreme Court granted certiorari. A certiorari is an extraordinary privilege injunction granted in cases that otherwise would not be entitled to review. In writing for the majority, Justice Fortas first examined whether the protesters could be convicted for refusing to leave the library. He concluded that they could not since their protest was peaceful and blacks could not be denied access since whites were allowed inside as well. He reviewed the conduct of the men and felt that this had no merit either. The state argued that the men were proving their intent to disturb the peace and upset the librarian. Justice Fortas concluded that the arrest was a violation of the men’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights that guarantee freedom of speech and assembly and the right to ask the government for redress of grievances (Meyer, F. S. , 1968). Justice Black opposed this opinion and took to issue with the majority’s reasoning. He disagreed that the Constitution prohibits any state from making “sit-ins” or “stand-ups” in public libraries illegal. Second, Black argued that the previous breach of the peace cases in Louisiana differed from Brown v. Louisiana. Previously there had been several other situations where there were peaceful demonstrations over discriminatory practices. Garner v. Louisiana (1961) involved a sit-in at a lunch counter to protest service for whites only. In Taylor v. Louisiana (1962) blacks again protested the presence of bus depot that was for white customers only. In Cox v. Louisiana (1965) a man led a demonstration near the courthouse and jail to protest the arrest of other demonstrations. Each of the protests, along with Brown v. Louisiana, was all orderly and peaceful and was over discriminatory practices that denied the protesters’ rights that were guaranteed to them under the Constitution. Justice Black opposition was joined by three other justices. They argued that the First Amendment did not guarantee to any person the right to use someone else’s property even that owned by the government and dedicated to other purposes. On Wednesday, February 23, 1966 the decision was made; 5 votes for Brown and 4 against him (Coates, R. , 2005). The young men won! The Court’s ruling in this case, along with the others, proved vital to the Civil Rights struggles and also to the Vietnam War protests that would follow. Indeed, without these rulings the 1960’s and early 1970’s may have been a completely different period in time, especially when it comes to the Civil Rights movement. In the last line of Justice Black’s opinion in Brown v. Louisiana he wrote: “The holding in this case today makes it more necessary than ever that we stop and look more closely at where we are going” (Meyer, F. S. , 1968). In conclusion, had it not been for demonstrations of this kind, and the Supreme Court granting certiorari there is a strong possibility that none of this would have ever taken place. Oftentimes, it is in a time of pain and suffering that the just shall prevail, and I believe this is no different. There is more work to do but with the Supreme Court being behind you, at least you know it’s not in vain. References Meyer, F. S. (1968, March 1). Western civilization. Retrieved from http://acuf. org/principles/p_westernciv. asp Retrieved (2010, August 9) from The Oyez Project, Brown v. Louisiana, 383 U. S. 131 (1966) Coates, R. (2005, October 30). Civil rights during the 1960's. Associated Content, Retrieved from http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/12234/civil_rights_during the_1960s. html
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