How far did the Supreme Court hinder rather than help the development of African American civil rights in the period 1865-1980 By James Lawson

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Between 1865 and 1980, the Supreme Court had a significant effect on the progress of civil rights. Early on in the period, numerous rulings were made that fundamentally restricted the rights of recently freed African Americans and limited their progress with a harmful legally supported precedence that would be set for years to come. However, the Supreme Court also helped develop the rights of African Americans, by steadily striking down harmful laws, and later in the period, by actively supporting federal intervention and desegregation.

Despite a wave of positive federal legislation to support civil rights, including the abolition of slavery and the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Supreme Court notably hindered the progress of African American rights between 1865 and the early 1900s. The Supreme Court, directly countered progress made through this period and congressional reconstruction, most likely with the intention of hindering progress. The Cruickshank decision ruled that the 14th Amendment protected the rights and privileges of citizens only when they were infringed by the action of the state. As a result, it essentially made the 14th amendment void, when individuals and groups perpetrated racial crimes. This is also meant that these basic rights would not be the target of federal intervention and thus the court had an extremely negative impact.

This obstructing precedence was furthered with the Court essentially recognising the rights of states to exclude blacks from voting. The Grandfather clauses, which excluded all who did not have two generations of voting family, was supported by the ruling on 'USA V. Reece', which allowed states to place voting qualifications. Thus, the Supreme Court prevented Blacks from voting on two grounds, and directly undermined the right to vote with long lasting impacts.
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This systematic abuse of African Americans through the legal system, was only worsened by the Courts rejection of the 1875 Civil rights act and the ruling on Plessey V Fergusson. This has terrible short consequences, upholding the 'Jim Crow' laws on a state level, despite their blatant contravention of the rights of black citizens. In the long term is also, established the idea of 'separate but equal' and thus provided the original basis for the lasting period of segregation and reinforcing racist attitudes; the fact that provision was far from equal only strengthened its impact. Therefore, not only ...

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