A Brief History
On May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court of the US ruled that “separate but equal” was a legal doctrine for segregating Caucasian Americans from Americans of sub-Saharan African descent, especially regarding school children. The case known as Plessy v. Ferguson is frequently referred to as the most egregious error in judgement ever made by the Supreme Court. Oddly enough, the case has never been overturned, except regarding the classroom.
Some other cases that have attracted the ire of Supreme Court critics include Dred Scott v. Sandford of 1857 about fugitive slaves, the Buck v. Bell case of 1927 that allowed forced sterilization of mentally deficient people, and Korematsu v. United States in 1944 that upheld the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II.
Supreme Court decisions are considered “good” or “bad” depending on perspective, and some more recent controversial cases include Bush v. Gore in 2000, Citizens United v. FEC in 2010, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022 that overturned the controversial decision of Roe v. Wade of 1973. Other controversial decisions concern gun control, labor rights, and sexual orientation/gender identity topics.
Question for students (and subscribers): What Supreme Court decision do you think is the worst? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Chemerinsky, Erwin. The Case Against the Supreme Court. Penguin Books, 2014.
Greenhouse, Linda. The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2020.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Infrogmation (talk) of Plessy Park, Press Street, Lower Faubourg Marigny at the edge of Bywater, New Orleans, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
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