• Last updated on November 11, 2022

Chipping away at the separate but equal doctrine, the Supreme Court ruled that states must provide equal opportunities for legal education within the borders of the state.

The state of Missouri, like other southern states, had no law schools that admitted African AmericansAfrican Americans;higher education[higher education]. The state claimed to provide separate but equal opportunity by offering a few scholarships to help pay expenses for African Americans to attend law schools in other states. The state also indicated that it would begin a separate law school for African Americans if there were sufficient demand. Lloyd Gaines, an African American resident of the state, sued the registrar of the University of Missouri, S. W. Canada, after being denied admission to the law school because of his race.Separate but equal doctrine;Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada[Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada]

President Andrew Johnson, pictured here, vehemently opposed the Reconstruction Act and regarded Mississippi’s motion against him as a threat to president power.

(Library of Congress)

By a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court held that Missouri’s scholarship policy fell short of the demands of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes,Hughes, Charles Evans;Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada[Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada] for the majority, wrote that the policy denied African Americans the equal right to obtain a legal education without leaving the state. Hughes noted that the state, if it wished, might fulfill its constitutional obligations “by furnishing equal facilities in separate schools.” The Gaines decision suggested that the Court would henceforth disapprove of segregated schools unless they met standards of near-absolute equality.

In Sweatt v. Painter[case]Sweatt v. Painter[Sweatt v. Painter] (1950), the Court built upon Gaines when it held that an all-black law school in Texas was inadequate because it did not provide “substantial equality” of educational opportunities available to white persons.

Education

Race and discrimination

Segregation, de jure

Separate but equal doctrine

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