7 Landmark Cases that Changed Black History

Shelley vs. Kraemer

The fight for equal rights has often led to lawsuits that changed history. As Black History Month comes to an end, it is important to recognize the many legal cases that stand out as landmarks in United States history. Here are just a few:

Shelley vs. Kraemer (1948)

In this case in 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants—promises in property deeds not to sell homes to ‘non-whites’ —were unenforceable in a court of law.

The ruling did not end racism or segregation, but did contribute to societal changes that would eventually bring an end to legalized segregation under “separate but equal.”  The case began when the Shelley family was prevented from moving into a white neighborhood due to the restrictive covenant that was included in their deed.  

Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)

This is one of the most famous Supreme Court civil rights cases, and resulted in a landmark decision against school segregation. In 1954, the Court ruled that separate public schools for black and white children were “inherently unequal” and therefore unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The NAACP had brought the case on behalf of parents whose children were denied admission to public schools near their homes just because they were black. The Supreme Court ruling reversed a previous one from 1896, in which the court had upheld segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. 

Bailey vs. Patterson (1962)

This Supreme Court case in 1962 resulted in prohibiting the racial segregation of interstate and intrastate transportation.

This decision came after the arrest of African-Americans was appealed. They were arrested for not buying tickets on a bus that was destined to Mississippi, which had segregationist laws at the time. The Supreme Court ruled that there could be no discrimination of any form in interstate and intrastate transportation.

Loving vs. Virginia (1967)

In this 1967 case, the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in the case were Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and black woman whose marriage was deemed illegal according to Virginia state law. The couple had been sentenced to a year in prison, but were eventually pardoned.

They appealed the ruling, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that interracial bans on marriage violated both the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Jones vs. Mayer Co. (1968)

This 1968 Supreme Court case overturned a previous 1967 ruling in which it was stated that there was no federal regulation of private racial discrimination. The court declared that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 barred all racial discrimination, whether public or private, even by private individuals selling their homes.

The court’s decision ultimately helped influence Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act of 1968 , which made it illegal to discriminate against someone for their race when selling, renting or financing a home.

Regents of University of California vs. Bakke (1978)

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in this case that racial quota systems for college admissions were unconstitutional.

The University of California Medical School at Davis had two separate admissions tracks: one for applicants based on grades and test scores alone and another for minority students with lower requirements. The Supreme Court ruled against both racial quotas and reverse discrimination in hiring, saying they were unconstitutional.

Batson vs. Kentucky (1986)

This Supreme Court case in 1986 established that jurors could not be removed from a trial solely because of their race.

The Batson case began when an African-American man was convicted of murder, and his death sentence by an all-white jury was later upheld by the state supreme court. He appealed on the basis of 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and sought a new trial.

The Supreme Court ruled that jurors cannot be struck from the jury pool because of their race, even to rectify past discrimination in jury selection.

The Importance of Civil Rights Attorneys

These cases have helped not only the Black community, but also any person who has been discriminated against for their race. These landmark cases have helped to ensure that all races and genders are treated with fairness and that they receive the same rights as others.

At Napoli Shkolnik, our team of civil rights attorneys work hard to ensure that all races and genders are treated equally. Reach out today for more information or if you have further questions about civil rights.