A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education
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A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education

September 13, 2019


THIS VIDEO IS A PROJECT OF THE
ANNENBERG FOUNDATION TRUST
AT SUNNYLANDS. ON SEPTEMBER 27TH, 1957, PRESIDENT EISENHOWER SENT
1,000 MEN OF THE UNITED STATES
ARMY TO CARRY OUT THE LAW. THE SUPREME COURT OF THE
UNITED STATES HAD SAID THE ENTIRE STRENGTH OF THE
NATION MAY BE USED TO ENFORCE,
IN ANY PART OF THE LAND, THE SECURITY OF ALL RIGHTS
ENTRUSTED BY THE CONSTITUTION. AND THAT INCLUDED MY RIGHTS AND
THE RIGHTS OF EIGHT OTHER
NEGRO AMERICANS WHO WANTED TO GO TO
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
IN LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS. DOES ANY OF YOU KNOW THE NAME
OF THE ATTORNEY WHO ARGUED– FOR THE STUDENTS IN BROWN
VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION? THURGOOD MARSHALL. WHY WOULD THE
THREE OF US HERE HAVE KNOWN THURGOOD MARSHALL, DO YOU KNOW? HE WAS THE FIRST
AFRICAN-AMERICAN
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. HE WAS ON THE SUPREME COURT.
HE WAS OUR COLLEAGUE. AND HE WAS HERE WHEN I CAME
TO THE COURT. THURGOOD MARSHALL GREW UP
IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, AND HE WENT TO SCHOOL THERE. AND WHEN HE WANTED TO GO
TO LAW SCHOOL, HE APPLIED TO THE UNIVERSITY
OF MARYLAND, AND HE WAS
TURNED DOWN. DO YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE HE WAS AFRICAN-AMERICAN. “NO, WE WON’T TAKE YOU
IN THIS LAW SCHOOL.” ISN’T THAT AMAZING? SO HE CAME DOWN TO
WASHINGTON, D.C., AND HE WENT
TO THE LAW SCHOOL CALLED HOWARD, WHICH WAS DEVELOPED TO TAKE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDENTS AND LAW STUDENTS. AND THAT’S WHERE HE GOT HIS
LAW DEGREE. AND THEY HAD IT IN AN OLD HOUSE, AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE A LIBRARY.
THEY MET UP IN THE ATTIC OF THE
OLD HOUSE, THE STUDENTS DID,
TO GET BOOKS AND STUDY. AND THURGOOD MARSHALL USED
TO TALK ABOUT WAYS THAT, WHEN THEY GOT OUT OF
LAW SCHOOL, THEY COULD HELP THE PEOPLE OF HIS RACE TO
IMPROVE THEIR LIVES. AND THAT’S WHAT HE DEDICATED
HIS LIFE TO DOING. AND HE HAD TRIED LOTS OF CASES
IN THE SOUTH,
IN THE TRIAL LEVEL, WITH JURIES, NOT JUST UP HERE, AND HAD TO GO INTO THE TOWN
ON ONE ROUTE AND ONE CAR AND
THEN LEAVE ANOTHER, BECAUSE IT WAS DANGEROUS,
WHAT HE WAS DOING. BUT– THEY MADE A MOVIE OUT OF
THURGOOD’S LIFE, AND THEY SHOWED ALL THE
INVESTIGATIONS THEY DID– THEY SHOWED HIS TRIALS AND
THEY SHOWED THE BACKGROUND OF BROWN VERSUS
BOARD OF EDUCATION. AND THE TITLE WAS
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL. IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT
MY DESCRIPTION OF THE MOVIE THAT MAKES YOU STOP AND THINK
YOU MIGHT HAVE SUGGESTED
A CHANGE? THAT SEPARATE WASN’T ACTUALLY
EQUAL. WELL, THAT’S EXACTLY THE POINT. WHAT ABOUT THIS DOCTRINE OF
SEPARATE BUT EQUAL? I MEAN, SEPARATE BUT EQUAL
IS A GOOD THING, ISN’T IT? YES, BUT SEPARATE IS
INHERENTLY UNEQUAL,
BECAUSE ONCE YOU SEPARATE– ONCE YOU SEPARATE TWO GROUPS,
BASED ON A CERTAIN
CHARACTERISTIC, A PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIER ARISES
THAT MAKES ANOTHER GROUP, THE GROUP THAT’S SEPARATED,
FEEL INFERIOR. IT’S A BADGE OF INFERIORITY
THAT ARISES. AND WHAT– SUPPOSE– THERE’S TWO SCHOOLS, ONE BLACK, ONE WHITE, IN A SMALL
— TWO HIGH SCHOOLS. LET’S MAKE ‘EM HIGH SCHOOLS. SMALL CITY, JUST TWO
HIGH SCHOOLS, ONE BLACK– BUT THE BLACK SCHOOL HAS
SWIMMING POOLS AND GYMS AND WONDERFUL TEACHERS
AND TV MONITORS. AND IT’S A BETTER SCHOOL FROM
ALL THE PHYSICAL FACIL– WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT? WELL, 1) IT DOESN’T MATTER WHICH
TWO GROUPS YOU’RE SEPARATING, IT’S WRONG
TO SEPARATE TWO GROUPS. WHY IS IT WRONG? – IT’S MORALLY WRONG
TO SEPARATE…
– WHY IS IT MORALLY WRONG? – IT MAKES PEOPLE FEEL BAD.
– IT HURTS THEM. SEPARATE BUT EQUAL WAS
THE ARGUMENT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO WANTED
TO BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN SEPARATE SCHOOLS BASED ON RACE. AND THAT WAS WHAT JUSTICE
MARSHALL AND THE OTHER LAWYERS WHO WERE OPPOSED TO IT WERE
ARGUING AGAINST. AND WHAT’S THE PROVISION
IN THE CONSTITUTION THAT THE COURT LOOKS TO IN
ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS? IN THE CONSTITUTION,
THE 14TH AMENDMENT SAYS THAT, “NOR DENY ANY PERSON WITHIN
JURISDICTION THE EQUAL
PROTECTION OF THE LAWS.” WELL, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
THEY HAD TWO SETS OF SCHOOLS
IN THE SOUTH. THEY HAD TWO SETS OF
DRINKING FOUNTAINS, THEY HAD TWO SETS OF
RAILROAD STATIONS IN THE SOUTH. THEY HAD TWO SETS OF EVERYTHING. ONE WAS CALLED WHITE AND
ONE WAS CALLED COLORED. NORMAL (?),
THAT WAS WHAT THEY HAD. OKAY, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES
THAT VIOLATE THAT PROVISION
OF THE CONSTITUTION? HOW MANY THINK YES? OKAY. HOW MANY THINK NO? OKAY. LET’S TAKE ANYONE WHO
SAYS YES AND EXPLAIN TO ME WHY. I THINK IT’S WRONG BECAUSE
THE BASIS OF THE SEPARATION STEMS FROM DISCRIMINATION. AND THE WHOLE REASON
THAT THEY’RE SEPARATED
IS FROM DISCRIMINATION, AND KNOWING THAT THEY WILL
FEAR– THEY WILL FEEL INFERIOR. PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT
THIS IS A SYSTEM DESIGNED TO MAKE BLACK PEOPLE
FEEL WORSE. NOW, WHY DO WE WANT TO DO THAT?
WELL, MAYBE WE WANT CONTROL. AND– MAYBE WE’LL– THAT WAY
WE CAN MAINTAIN MORE CONTROL OVER OUR SOCIETY AND WE
DON’T HAVE TO GIVE THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE THE DESCENDANTS OF
THE FORMER SLAVES A CHANCE. MY QUESTION IS WHY, IF THIS IS ALL SO CLEAR
TO US, WHICH I THINK
IT IS FAIRLY CLEAR, WHY DID IT TAKE ALL THAT TIME
BEFORE THE COURT DID ANYTHING? I BELIEVE THAT– IT TOOK 50, 60 YEARS FOR– FOR THIS CASE TO BE PUSHED
THROUGH BECAUSE–
PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON. EXACTLY. THERE WAS AN EARLIER
CASE, WASN’T THERE? CALLED PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON. WAS PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON
RIGHT WHEN IT WAS DECIDED? AT THAT TIME, IT WAS BECAUSE
THAT WAS KIND OF THE MENTALITY
OF THE COUNTRY. BUT– THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT RIGHT,
THOUGH, UNDER THE CONSTITUTION,
DID IT? NO. IF YOU WERE WRITING THE OPINION
TO REVERSE PLESSY VERSUS
FERGUSON, YOU HAD TO GIVE THE REASONS– WOULD YOU SAY THAT SOCIETY
HAS CHANGED? I WOULD SAY THAT SOCIETY
HAD CHANGED BECAUSE– THE RECOGNITION OF PLESSY–
AS BLACK BECAUSE OF
THE PERCENTAGE HE WAS HAD CHANGED BY THAT TIME. BUT DOESN’T THAT INDICATE
THAT PLESSY MIGHT HAVE BEEN OKAY
WHEN IT WAS– PLESSY IS 1896. THAT MEANS IT WAS PROBABLY
A CLOSER CALL IN 1896
THAN IN 1954? IT WAS NEVER CORRECT, BUT
IT WAS THE DECISION THAT THE
COURT MADE AT THE TIME. WELL, I SEE SOME OF THE PROBLEM
YOU’RE HAVING. YOU WANT TO BE RESPECTFUL.
YOU SAY, “IT’S CORRECT,”
IT’S THE LAW OF THE LAND. WHAT WE’RE ASKING IS WAS IT
PROPERLY REASONED? WAS THE RESULT– CORRECT UNDER THE CONSTITUTION? AND, SURE, JUST BECAUSE
WE SAY IT, THAT–
I SUPPOSE IT IS THE LAW FOR A WHILE. BUT WE CAN STILL ASK IF IT’S
CORRECT. AND YOU INDICATE NO. AND I TAKE IT THAT’S BECAUSE,
WHY? WHY WAS IT WRONG IN 1896? IT WAS WRONG IN 1896 BECAUSE
AT THE SAME TIME– RACIAL DISCRIMINATION WAS STILL
WRONG AT THAT TIME. THERE WAS STILL A HURT, THERE
WAS STILL A MORAL WRONG,
THAT YOUR COLLEAGUE SAID. THERE WAS– IT’S STILL SOMETHING THAT WAS
JUST WRONG AS A MATTER OF MORALS BECAUSE WE’RE HURTING OTHER
PEOPLE, EVEN THEN. WELL, OF COURSE– DO YOU THINK THAT THE
SUPREME COURT DECIDES LEGAL QUESTIONS LIKE THE
MEANING OF THE CONSTITUTION BASED ON WHETHER THE JUSTICES
THINK IT’S MORAL OR LOGICAL? OR DO THEY HAVE TO LOOK AT THE
LANGUAGE OF THE CONSTITUTION TO
MAKE THE DECISION? WELL, THEY WOULD HAVE TO LOOK
AT THE LANGUAGE OF THE
CONSTITUTION. IN THE 14TH AMENDMENT WHERE IT SAYS IT
“CANNOT DENY ANY PERSON WITHIN ITS JURISDICTION EQUAL
PROTECTION OF THE LAW.” YES. AND SO WHAT DOES EQUAL
PROTECTION OF THE LAW MEAN? THE ARGUMENT THEN, THAT WAS
ACCEPTED IN PLESSY, WAS THAT IF YOU HAVE A SEPARATE
FOR WHITE STUDENTS AND A SEPARATE ONE FOR BLACKS
BUT THEY’RE BOTH EQUAL,
IT’S ALL RIGHT. IT DOESN’T VIOLATE THAT SECTION
OF THE CONSTITUTION. SO WHAT’S THE LEGAL ARGUMENT,
DO YOU SUPPOSE? THE ARGUMENT IN BROWN VERSUS
BOARD OF EDUCATION WAS THAT SEPARATE SCHOOLS, WHILE THEY COULD BE EQUAL IN
ALL OF THE TANGIBLE FACTURE– FACTORS THAT COULD BE MEASURED, WERE UNEQUAL IN THE
INTANGIBLE FACTORS. “A SENSE OF INFERIORITY THAT
AFFECTS THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS IN A WAY NEVER TO BE UNDONE.” LET ME ASK YOU THIS. SEGREGATED SCHOOLS EXISTED
IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR ALL
ACROSS THE SOUTH. IN SOME STATES IN THE NORTH,
KANSAS, TOPEKA WAS THE BROWN VERSUS
BOARD OF EDUCATION– DELAWARE. AND SOCIETY WAS USED TO IT,
IN THE SENSE THAT THAT’S
WHAT THEY HAD, THE FINANCING — THAT’S THE
WAY IT WAS ALL ORGANIZED. IF YOU WERE THURGOOD MARSHALL, AND YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS WRONG
UNDER THE CONSTITUTION– HOW WOULD YOU BEGIN TO ATTACK
THE DOCTRINE OF SEPARATE
BUT EQUAL? DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE DID?
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEIR
STRATEGY WAS? WOULD YOU GO– WOULD YOU ATTACK
IT FIRST AT THE UNIVERSITY LEVEL OR AT THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL LEVEL? WHERE WOULD YOU ATTACK IT FIRST? THURGOOD MARSHALL AND THE NAACP
FIRST ATTACKED IT AT THE
UNIVERSITY LEVEL. WHY DID THEY DO THAT? BECAUSE THEY COULD ESTABLISH
A PRECEDENT. THEY– I FORGET THE COURT CASE. WELL, SWEATT VERSUS PAINTER WHERE THEY ESTABLISH THAT
IN A LAW SCHOOL– IF A STUDENT WAS TREATED
DIFFERENTLY, HE WOULDN’T RECEIVE THE SAME
EDUCATION AND THE SAME BENEFITS. YEAH. THEY HAD CASES IN
LAW SCHOOLS WHERE A STUDENT WAS ADMITTED TO THE
LAW SCHOOL, BUT HE HAD A STUDY TABLE IN
THE LIBRARY AND IT WAS HIS OWN TABLE, AND IT
WAS SURROUNDED BY A LITTLE
CARDBOARD THING– TO SEPARATE HIM. AND AS YOU SAY, IT WAS JUST
EASIER TO SHOW THAT THIS KIND OF SEPARATION
WAS INHERENTLY UNEQUAL. AND THAT WAS THEIR STRATEGY. THINK OF THAT PART OF THE
CONSTITUTION. SO HERE WE HAVE ON THE ONE HAND THEY’RE NOT BEING TREATED
PROPERLY BECAUSE OF RACE. AND ON THE OTHER HAND, WE HAVE THIS PART OF THE
CONSTITUTION THAT SAYS YOU HAVE
TO TREAT PEOPLE EQUALLY. SO LOOKING AT THAT, AND YOU THINK, “HOW CAN
WE GET THAT CHANGED?” WELL, WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO
COULD CHANGE IT? THE PEOPLE WHO COULD CHANGE IT
IS THE PEOPLE. THAT’S ONE GROUP. YOU COULD
GET THEM TO VOTE TO CHANGE IT. NOW, THERE’S A PROBLEM
WITH THAT. THERE ARE TWO PROBLEMS. WHAT DO
YOU THINK THE PROBLEM WITH
THAT WAS, BIG PROBLEM? THE MAJORITY WAS AGAINST THAT. A MAJORITY WAS AGAINST IT.
AND BY THE WAY, WHAT GROUP OF PEOPLE WOULD
HAVE BEEN MOST FOR IT? – MINORITIES. – RIGHT. AND WHAT
ABOUT THEIR VOTING? – THEY WERE NOT COUNTED. – NO. THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO VOTE
EITHER, JUST IN CASE. SO WE
HAVE LIKE A SAFEGUARD. OKAY, SO IT LOOKED PRETTY BAD
TO GO TO THE PUBLIC HERE BECAUSE, FOR ONE THING,
THE PEOPLE MOST AFFECTED, THEY TRIED TO STOP ‘EM FROM
VOTING, AND VERY OFTEN
SUCCESSFULLY. AND ON THE OTHER HAND, MAYBE
THEY WOULD HAVE LOST ANYWAY CAUSE THEY WERE THE MINORITY. SO WE DON’T KNOW HOW THE
ELECTION WOULD HAVE COME. OR THERE’S SOME OTHER PEOPLE
WHO MIGHT CHANGE THAT. SO WHAT ELSE COULD THEY HAVE DONE? WHO COULD HAVE SAID,
“THIS EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE IS ONE THING, AND THIS
ISN’T RIGHT”? THE SUPREME COURT. IT WAS SO OBVIOUS YOU WERE
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING ELSE. THE SUPREME COURT COULD DO IT.
AND THAT’S WHERE THEY WENT. ALL RIGHT, SO NOW YOU HAVE
TO USE YOUR IMAGINATION. AND JUST USE YOUR IMAGINATION
AND THINK BACK IN 1953, ’54. WE WEREN’T THERE THEN, BUT
THERE WERE NINE PEOPLE. AND SOME OF THEM WERE CLEARLY FOR THURGOOD MARSHALL, BUT SOME WERE HESITANT. NOW, IF THEY WERE IN THEIR
ROOM– THERE’S A ROOM BACK
OVER HERE. AND THEY WOULD SIT AROUND
AND DISCUSS THIS IF A CASE IS IN FRONT OF ‘EM. SO NOW HERE’S WHAT
THURGOOD MARSHALL HAVE TO DO,
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. IMAGINE WHAT THEY’RE SAYING. IMAGINE THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE HESITANT. WHAT WOULD THEY SAY? DON’T YOU THINK THEY MIGHT SAY,
“WELL, THAT’S ALREADY BEEN
DECIDED. DON’T COME TO US, WE’VE DECIDED
THAT BACK IN THE 1800S.” SO, WE DECIDED THAT ALREADY, AND THEY WOULD HAVE REFERRED
TO WHAT CASE? – OH– PLESSY VERSUS– EXACTLY. SO SOME COULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT. BUT THEN, NOW YOU’RE
THURGOOD MARSHALL, SO YOU’RE THINKING,
“HOW AM I GOING TO STOP THEM
FROM SAYING THAT?” AND HOW IS HE GONNA DO IT? OKAY. IN PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON, THEY ARGUED THAT SEPARATE
BUT EQUAL IS CORRECT BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH
IT’S SEPARATE, THEY HAVE EQUAL
ACCOMMODATIONS. BUT THURGOOD MARSHALL ARGUED
THAT EVEN THOUGH ACCOMMODATIONS
CAN BE EQUAL, IT’S INHERENTLY WRONG
BECAUSE OF INFERIORITY. THAT’S AN ARGUMENT. YOU HAVE A VERY GOOD ARGUMENT
THAT PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON
IS WRONG. BUT IT’S DECIDED. SO WHY SHOULD WE GO BACK? THERE IS THE PROBLEM
THURGOOD MARSHALL IS FACING. AND SO HOW DOES HE ATTACK THAT? WHAT DID HE SAY AND WHAT
DID HE ARGUE? HE MADE THE ARGUMENT YOU
JUST MADE, THAT’S CERTAINLY
ONE OF THE THINGS HE DID. AND WHAT DID HE DO? YOU ALSO
SAID WHAT HE DID FIRST. WHERE DID HE GO? TO THE LAW SCHOOLS. NOW IF HE WON THE
LAW SCHOOL CASE, CAUSE THEY ALL UNDERSTAND
THE LAW SCHOOL. THE JUDGES ALL UNDERSTAND
THIS IS A VERY UNFAIR WAY
TO RUN A LAW SCHOOL. YOU CAN’T GET AN EDUCATION
AT A LAW SCHOOL WHILE YOU’RE SITTING BY
YOURSELF WITH A LAMP SOMEWHERE. NOW, HE GOT THEM–
HE WON THAT CASE. NOW WE GO BACK AND SOMEONE
SAYS TO YOU, (YOU’RE THE LAWYER) “OH, WE
DECIDED THIS A LONG TIME AGO.” AND WHAT DO YOU SAY?
“HEY, JUDGE, YOU SAID YOU DECIDED PLESSY V.
FERGUSON A LONG TIME AGO, AND IT’S– DECIDED THIS CASE. BUT JUST RECENTLY, YOU DECIDED
A LAW SCHOOL CASE AND YOU
HELD THE OPPOSITE. SO NOW YOU DON’T HAVE ALL
THE LAW AGAINST ME, YOU HAVE SOME LAW AGAINST ME
AND SOME LAW FOR ME.” SEE, THAT’S A PRETTY GOOD WAY
TO ARGUE A CASE. SO HE GOT WHAT WAS HAPPENING
WAS THE LAW WAS CHANGING. HE PROVED TO THE JUDGES THAT
THE LAW IS CHANGING; THEREFORE, THEY CAN’T JUST GO
BACK AND RELY ON THAT OLD CASE. THEY HAVE TO THINK. RIGHT, NOW WE GOT ‘EM THINKING
AT LEAST. THAT’S A PLUS. AND THEN YOU
COME IN WITH YOUR MORAL
ARGUMENT, AND WHAT PRACTICAL HAS
HAPPENED. VERY GOOD. NOW, ONE MORE PROBLEM. THINK OF THE PEOPLE IN THAT ROOM, AND THERE ARE SOME WHAT YOU
MIGHT CALL NERVOUS NELLIES. AND THESE NERVOUS NELLIES ARE
GONNA SAY WHAT? THEY SAY, “I SEE YOU’RE RIGHT. I SEE YOU’RE RIGHT.
I’M SO SORRY THAT WE HAVE THIS HORRIBLE
CASE OF PLESSY VERSUS FERGUSON. AND I EVEN SEE HOW WE COULD
GET RID OF IT, BECAUSE WE’VE NOW DECIDED
THINGS OPPOSITE WAYS
AND WE COULD DO IT. BUT I’M STILL REALLY WORRIED
ABOUT SOMETHING.” WHAT AM I WORRIED ABOUT? WHAT
IS NERVOUS NELLY WORRIED ABOUT? BECAUSE THE PUBLIC OPINION
IS AGAINST. AND WHY SHOULD THAT MAKE– WHY SHOULD THAT MAKE JUDGE
NERVOUS NELLY WORRIED? CAUSE THE JUDGE ISN’T ELECTED,
IS HE? HE’S GOT HIS JOB. THEY SEND HIM
A PAYCHECK, SMALL, BUT OKAY. THE JUDGE IS NOT ELECTED, BUT– WHAT’S GOOD– WHAT IS HE
WORRIED ABOUT HAPPENING? WELL, WHEN PUBLIC OPINION IS AGAINST SOMETHING,
IT CAUSES CONFLICTS. YEAH. WHAT DOES HE THINK
COULD HAPPEN? – THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED.
WHAT DOES HE THINK COULD HAPPEN? – THE PRESIDENT COULD NOT
ENFORCE IT. – YES. THAT’S WHAT HE’S WORRIED
ABOUT. YES. “WE’LL SAY IT, BUT THEY MIGHT
NOT DO IT.” DO YOU ALL REMEMBER WHAT
HAPPENED AFTER THE SUPREME COURT OVERTURNED PLESSY VERSUS
FERGUSON AND DECIDED, IN BROWN VERSUS
BOARD OF EDUCATION, THAT SEPARATE COULD NOT BE
EQUAL? WHAT HAPPENED THEN IN THE
SCHOOLS IN STATES LIKE ALABAMA? ANY OF YOU KNOW? PRIVATE SCHOOLS WERE CREATED. THEY CREATED SOME PRIVATE
SCHOOLS TO DO WHAT, KEEP THEM
SEPARATE? YES. AND BY THE WAY, DOES ANYBODY
KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN
LITTLE ROCK WHERE THE JUDGE SAID, “GO AHEAD,
LITTLE ROCK HIGH SCHOOL.
IN SEPTEMBER IN 1957, YOU GO PUT SOME OF THOSE BLACK
CHILDREN IN THAT WHITE CLASS.” DO YOU KNOW THE GOVERNOR?
HAVE YOU EVER HEARD HIS NAME? WHO WAS THE GOVERNOR BACK THEN IN ARKANSAS, IN LITTLE ROCK,
YOU REMEMBER? GOVERNOR FAUBUS WAS HIS NAME. SEE, I CAN REMEMBER THAT, I WAS
GROWING UP THEN. I WAS ALIVE. AND HE STOOD AT THE
SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR. – YEAH, AND HE SAID, “NO.” AND
SAID, “YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE, YOU’RE NOT WHITE.” IMAGINE. AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? DO YOU RECALL WHAT HAPPENED? HE CALLED IN THE NATIONAL GUARD
TO ENSURE THAT THE BLACKS
WOULD NOT BE ADMITTED. AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED? AND THEN PRESIDENT EISENHOWER
RECALLED THE NATIONAL GUARD AND THEN SENT IN THE TROOPS
FROM THE 101ST AIRBORNE
DIVISION TO ESCORT THE AFRICAN-AMERICANS TO SCHOOL. – YEAH. – YES. DID THE PRESIDENT HAVE TO DO
WHAT HE DID? – YES, HE DID. – WHY? BECAUSE THE SUPREME COURT
RULED THAT THAT WAS THE LAW. WHAT DOES THE PRESIDENT SAY
ON JANUARY 20TH WHEN
HE RAISES HIS HAND? –DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER DO
SOLEMNLY SWEAR. I, DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, DO
SOLEMNLY SWEAR. THAT YOU WILL FAITHFULLY
EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT I WILL FAITHFULLY EXECUTE
THE OFFICE OF THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. AND WILL, TO THE BEST OF
YOUR ABILITY. AND WILL, TO THE BEST OF
MY ABILITY. PRESERVE, PROTECT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION
OF THE UNITED STATES. PRESERVE, PROTECT AND DEFEND
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE
UNITED STATES. SO HELP YOU GOD. SO HELP ME GOD. LET’S SAY YOU’RE THE ATTORNEY
FOR GENERAL EISENHOWER. YOU’RE THE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL.
BIG DEAL. YOU HAVE AN OFFICE RIGHT
NEXT TO- AND YOU KNOW WHAT’S GONE ON,
YOU HEAR ON THE RADIO. YOU GET PHONE CALLS WITH
THE GOVERNOR HAS CALLED
THE TROOPS OUT. AND YOU GO INTO –
PRESIDENT EISENHOWER AND YOU SAY “EXCUSE ME, MR. PRESIDENT,
I KNOW YOU’RE BUSY, BUT I’VE
GOTTA TELL YOU SOMETHING.” AND I THE PRES–
“YEAH, I’M BUSY. WHAT YOU GOT?” IT’S YOUR DUTY TO PROTECT
THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THESE AFRICAN-AMERICAN
CITIZENS SO YOU MUST TAKE
ACTION TO — WELL, I’LL GIVE A SPEECH
NEXT WEEK ON IT. WE HAVE TO TAKE IMMEDIATE
ACTION, ‘CAUSE IT IS YOUR
DUTY TO PR– WELL, YOU MEAN THE MINUTE I SEE
SOMETHING WRONG I HAVE TO
SEND THE ARMY IN? I MEAN, I USED TO BE A GENERAL AND I KNOW HOW TO DO THAT
KIND OF THING IF I HAVE TO, BUT DO WE HAVE A– THERE’S A LOT
OF PEOPLE VIOLATIN’ A
LOTTA LAWS HERE. I’M GONNA SEND THE ARMY IN
EVERY TIME YOU COME RUSHING
INTO MY OFFICE, BOTHERING ME? WELL, THE SUPREME COURT JUST
DECLARED THAT SCHOOLS MUST BE
INTEGRATED. SO YOU HAVE TO PROTECT
THEIR DECISION AND SUPPORT
THEIR DECISION. BUT I GUESS THE SUPREME COURT
CAN’T ORDER THE PRESIDENT TO
SEND TROOPS, CAN IT? NO, IT CANNOT. BUT–
HOWEVER, THE PRESI–
SINCE IT IS THE PRESIDENT’S DUTY TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE
CONSTITUTION– WAS THERE A SPECIAL REASON– DO WE USUALLY USE THE ARMY TO
ENFORCE OUR LAWS IN THIS
COUNTRY? NO, WE DO NOT. WHAT’S THE SPECIAL REASON
FOR YOU COMING– CHARGING IN MY OFFICE TELLING
ME I HAVE TO USE THE ARMY? WELL, THE ARMY’S PURPOSE IS
TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE
THE CONSTITUTION AS WELL. BUT THAT’S TRUE IN ANY TIME THE
LAWS ARE BEING VIOLATED. WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS? YOU HAVE TO PROTECT THE
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS OF
THESE INDIVID– WHY? BECAUSE BY DISCRIMINATING
AGAINST THESE PERS– WELL, THE PURPOSE OF THE
GOVERNMENT IS TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS
OF THE INDIVIDUALS. AND BY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST
THEM, YOU ARE INHERENTLY NOT PROTECTING THEIR RIGHTS. DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WHEN
THE GOVERNOR SENT THE TROOPS
TO PREVENT THESE SMALL BLACK GIRLS AND SMALL BLACK BOYS FROM
GOING TO THIS SCHOOL? WHAT HAPPENED? DID THE REST
OF THE WORLD KNOW ABOUT IT? I WAS IN ENGLAND IN SCHOOL
AT THE TIME; IT WAS ON THE FRONT PAGE OF
EVERY SINGLE NEWSPAPER IN THE WORLD. IN THE WORLD. AND THIS WAS AN OPPORTUNITY
AND A NECESSITY TO SHOW THAT WE ENFORCE OUR LAWS
WHERE PEOPLE ARE BEING HURT. AND IF YOU HAVE A GOVERNOR
TAKE THE EXTREME STEP OF CALLING IN HIS OWN ARMY,
AN EXTREME STEP, ALMOST UNHEARD OF, THEN YOU ARE VIOLATING YOUR
DUTY, MR. PRESIDENT. THE OATH YOU TOOK WHEN YOU
TOOK THIS OFFICE TO PRESERVE, PROTECT AND
DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION AND IF YOU DON’T DO IT NOW,
EVERY OTHER SCHOOL IN THE
COUNTRY WOULD– SEGREGATED IS GONNA DO THIS SAME THING, AND YOUR LAW’S A SHAMBLES AND
YOUR CONSTITUTION’S A SHAMBLES AND YOUR PRESIDENCY IS
IN DANGER. THAT’S THE KIND OF THING
YOU SAY. BROWN VERSUS BOARD OF EDUCATION
WAS ONE OF THE MOST
IMPORTANT CASES THAT THIS COURT EVER DECIDED. IT WAS REALLY CRUCIAL IN DETERMINING WHAT IT WAS THAT
OUR CONSTITUTION MEANS AND WHAT OUR COUNTRY STANDS FOR. WE WERE NINE TEENAGERS. WE THOUGHT THIS WAS A PLACE THAT WOULD ACCEPT US,
THAT WE BELONGED. WE SAW IT AS A BUILDING
THAT OFFERED OPPORTUNITY
AND OPTIONS FOR US. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? FIFTY YEARS
LATER, I THINK WE WERE RIGHT. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS.

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