Law | Law and Race
Scarcely ten years ago the Supreme Court of the United States sounded the death knell for segregation in the public schools. In so doing, the high court in fact did much more, for its decision drew together and united the diverse elements in American society which were arrayed against segregation in all its forms. Thus began the great social upheaval which we loosely term "the Negro revolution."
The broad goal is readily discernible. The Negro demands admittance to American public life, to the schools, theatres, restaurants, hotels, job opportunities and the like which comprise the "public" sector of our society; in short, the Negro rejects the philosophy that he is a second class citizen, one perpetually barred from many segments of public life. And his revolution may be one without a significant historical parallel, for it draws considerable strength from the law itself, which, in the main, is committed to the same ends.
Ten years have witnessed enormous progress. A century of segregation has been shorn of its legal and moral underpinnings, and practices which went unchallenged but a few short years ago are now dead or dying. In the last few years the revolution has gathered enormous momentum, and it has taken on a far more pressing character. Promises no longer satisfy; "with all deliberate speed" is no longer a part of the Negro's vocabulary. The Negro demands admittance to the main stream of American life now, not later, and he insists that apartheid be torn root and branch from every phase of American public life.
The Negro revolution is, however, approaching a critical juncture. New tensions are becoming increasingly evident as the Negro seeks to right the wrongs of centuries in less than a decade. The revolution's accelerated pace, with its increasing and unyielding pressures for rapid change, now threatens to push it considerably beyond what the legal order can reasonably accept. Should this occur, no one can predict the outcome. Some measure of repression would be inevitable, and this, in turn, might transform the "revolution" to one of far more classic lines – that is, from one in which the Negro seeks admittance to American society to one in which he rejects that society.
Thus, while the law may in the main buttress the goals of the Negro revolution, parts of that revolution are moving on a collision course with the necessary demands of the legal order, and this is fast becoming an issue of overriding concern. The purpose of this paper is to sketch briefly some of the areas where the law and the Negro revolution are approaching open conflict.
Henry P. Monaghan,
Law and the Negro Revolution; Ten Years Later,
B. U. L. Rev.
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