The US Supreme Court and Civil Rights

Mark Rathbone looks at the role of the Supreme Court in the history of civil rights in the USA from 1865 onwards.

Think of civil rights in the USA and the campaigns of leaders like Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph and Malcolm X spring to mind, together with the organisations they headed up, such as the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the SCLC (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and the SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). Certainly too the contributions of some US Presidents deserve a mention - Franklin D Roosevelt, whose Executive Order 8802 outlawed discrimination in government employment; Harry Truman, who desegregated the US Army; and pre-eminently Lyndon Johnson, who was responsible for a series of civil rights laws in the 1960s. But students of civil rights should not neglect the role of the US Supreme Court. It may appear an unlikely liberator, and at times its decisions held back progress towards greater civil rights, but without some crucial Supreme Court decisions the task for the civil rights movement would have been far harder.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.