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"Landmark Supreme Court Cases on Race and the Constitution: A Look Back"

The history of African Americans in the United States has been marked by numerous violations of their civil rights. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, African Americans have faced systemic discrimination and violence. Here are some court cases that have chronicled the long and challenging road to freedom:

- Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857): Dred Scott was an enslaved man who sued his owners for his freedom after he had been taken from Missouri to Illinois, claiming that he had automatically been freed once crossing into a territory where slavery was illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Black people "are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution," and so were not afforded the rights and privileges that it granted to American citizens[1].

- United States v. Cruikshank (1876): This case, along with the majority opinion, had a great impact on the protection of civil rights for African Americans and allowed for states, especially in the South, to take measures to suppress Black voting[1].

- United States v. Reese (1876): This case upheld discriminatory voting practices in Kentucky and allowed states to continue to disenfranchise Black voters[1].

- Hernandez v. Erlenbusch (1973): This case involved a Mexican-American man who was beaten by police officers and sued for damages. The Supreme Court ruled that Mexican Americans were a protected class under the 14th Amendment and that they could not be excluded from juries based on their ethnicity[2].

- Meridian Joint School District No. 2 v. United States (2013): This case involved a school district in Mississippi that was accused of implementing a harsh and punitive student discipline policy that resulted in the disproportionate suspension, expulsion, and school-based arrest of Black students. The Department of Justice found that these kinds of disparities persisted even when the students were at the same school, were of similar ages, and had similar disciplinary histories[5].

- Floyd v. City of New York (2013): This case involved the New York City Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy, which disproportionately targeted Black and Latino individuals. A federal judge ruled that the policy was unconstitutional and ordered the NYPD to reform its practices[6].

These cases are just a few examples of the many instances of Black human rights violations that have occurred throughout U.S. history. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all people are treated equally under the law.


1. National Archives. (n.d.). Laws and Court Cases. Retrieved from

2. Library of Congress. (n.d.). The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom Epilogue. Retrieved from

3. Library of Congress. (n.d.). The Civil Rights Era - The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship. Retrieved from

4. Human Rights Watch. (2022). Racial Discrimination in the United States. Retrieved from

5. Department of Justice. (n.d.). Civil Rights Division | Case Summaries. Retrieved from

6. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. (n.d.). Witness: The Civil Rights Blog. Retrieved from

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