• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ignored its 1886 ruling and upheld the murder conviction of an African American in a trial in which no African Americans served on the jury.

Williams, an African American from Mississippi, had been convicted of murder by an all-white jury. Williams argued, in line with Yick Wo v. Hopkins[case]Yick Wo v. Hopkins[Yick Wo v. Hopkins] (1886), that his indictment and conviction by all-white grand and petit juries violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. At the time in Mississippi, African Americans were effectively excluded from jury service because only qualified voters could serve, and poll taxes and literacy tests rendered most African Americans unable to vote. The Court distinguished Yick Wo and its principle that a racially fair law could be voided if it was administered in a discriminatory manner from the facts of this case, saying that Williams did not prove that the actual practice of Mississippi’s suffrage laws was unfair. As a result of this ruling, other southern states quickly followed Mississippi and passed laws designed to prevent African Americans from voting. White primaries, poll taxes, and literacy tests became common in the South until white primaries were banned in the 1940’s and discriminatory voting practices were stopped by the 1964 and 1965 Voting Rights Acts.Jury composition and size;Williams v. Mississippi[Williams v. Mississippi]

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