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Fifty years after the United States Supreme Court found the principle of "separate but equal" educational facilities to be unconstitutional, laws passed to ensure racial segregation in public schools are still on the books. At least eight southern states have kept segregationist laws and those statutes continue to influence educational policy, according to a group of law and public policy researchers.
A report released today by the Jim Crow Study Group at the University of Arizona, "Still on the Books: Jim Crow and Segregation Laws Fifty Years After Brown v. Board of Education," calls for legislative review and repeal of provisions in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Student and faculty researchers found that old laws are still present in state statutes. Among them:
The Alabama Constitution allows parents to choose to send their children to schools provided for their race only;
A Georgia law designed to allow teachers at segregated private schools to join desirable state pension programs is still on the books;
Louisiana has laws still on the books to authorize the closing of integrated public schools, and the payment of salaries of teachers who are imprisoned for resisting integration;
Mississippi law retains a provision allowing closure of close proximity public schools if they are integrated;
Missouri law refers to a segregated reform school for "Negroes;"
South Carolina law still on the books authorizes tuition grants for students in segregated public schools;
Virginia law still contains provisions allowing suspension of compulsory education laws if schools are integrated;
A West Virginia statute that was used to limit the number of African-Americans hired as public school supervisors is still on the books.
Although some of the identified laws are no longer enforced or have been held unconstitutional in the courts, the group believes the laws continue to have effects. Some former teachers at segregated private schools are receiving public pensions today and segregated private schools continue to benefit from donations of real property by the states.
"I think it says something about where our society is today that no one has bothered to go back and repeal these offensive statutes," said Gabriel "Jack" Chin, professor of law at the University of Arizona's Rogers College of Law. "They were intended to support racial segregation and avoid compliance with the United States Constitution. They should be remembered as part of our painful history, not part of our current law."
The report details how legislation built on segregationist principles continues to influence public education even five decades later. For example, some private schools continue to enjoy the public property and other benefits given to them in an effort to undermine the Brown decision. The report calls for states to identify what public resources were used to support segregation, and to examine how current educational policies and procedures are influenced by segregationist philosophies.
Roger Hartley, assistant professor, in the School of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Business and Public Administration, addressed the difficulties of analyzing public policy issues in a historical context. "We have learned how truly complex segregation was in our legal system, and how it persisted long after the 1954 decision. There was never a true ending point to segregation but, instead, Brown was the beginning of a very long end. Our report demonstrates that it still lurks in state laws."
Chin and Hartley co-direct the interdisciplinary Law, Criminal Justice and Security Program at the University of Arizona. Graduate students from both the Rogers College of Law and the Eller College of Business and Public Administration researched state codes and wrote the report under their supervision.
Second-year law student Rona Nichols admits she was surprised that offensive laws and language had not been changed. "Each legislature should take the time and make a concerted effort to repeal or change each law that we found." Kevin Bates, a graduate student in public administration, concurs: "I hope that we can educate citizens and elected decision-makers of these states about Jim Crow laws, including why they were enacted and why they should be repealed."
The Jim Crow Study Group's purpose is to contribute to the improvement of the legal system. The views expressed in the JCSG report are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the University of Arizona or any of its colleges, schools or departments.
The JCSG was started by Hartley and Chin, who have partnered on other projects of law and public policy over the last academic year. Both are committed to interdisciplinary collaboration as a way of helping students develop broader skills and a stronger knowledge base. Some students receive academic credit for their work: others are volunteers.
Members of the JCSG, in alphabetical order, are:
Kevin Bates M.A. Candidate (2004) University of Arizona, Eller College of Business and Public Administration B.A., M.B.A., University of Kansas
"This project has opened my eyes to the fact that these segregation-era laws actually remain active laws. I hope we can educate citizens and elected decision-makers of those states about why they were enacted and why they should be repealed."
Bates is a former reporter for Kansas newspapers, including The Emporia Gazette, the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Lawrence Journal-World.
Gabriel "Jack" Chin
Professor of Law and Co-Director, Law, Criminal Justice and Security Program University of Arizona, Rogers College of Law LL.M., Yale Law School, J.D., Michigan Law School
"I was surprised to learn that the legal effort to derail Brown was as fierce and as prolonged as it was, and I was amazed that so much of this law remains on the books. The fact that no one has taken the trouble to identify and purge all of these laws makes me think that they legal legacy of racism may be deeper than I realized."
Before joining the University of Arizona Rogers College faculty, Chin was involved in efforts to repeal anti-Asian land ownership laws in Kansas and Wyoming and the re-ratification of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 2003 by the state of Ohio.
Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration and Policy Co-Director, Law, Criminal Justice and Security Program University of Arizona, Eller College of Business and Public Administration Ph.D., M.A., University of Georgia
"I think that this year is a most wonderful and appropriate time to revisit the era of segregation and to reflect on its meaning for our history and our culture today. The symbolic efforts of putting these laws to rest forever will go a long way toward reflecting on our past, learning from it and to continue the journey that Brown set us out on."
Rona Nichols J.D. Candidate (2005) University of Arizona, Rogers College of Law
"While I might have expected this had I been living in the 1950's, I surely did not expect to have this kind of attitude to be so prevalent in the late 1990's."I
A second year law student, Nichols graduated Magna cum Laude from South Carolina's Winthrop University in 2000, where she was a member of the softball team and a two-time member of the Big South Conference All-Academic Team. She was a guest columnist for The Johnsonian, a student newspaper, and the Rock Hill Herald.
Ira Shiflett J.D. Candidate (2005) University of Arizona, Rogers College of Law
"These laws are like open windows that expose us to the Jim Crow era. It's time to shut the windows by repealing these laws"
Ph.D. Candidate University of Arizona, Eller College of Business and Public Administration J.D., M.B.A., University of Virginia
"As an African-American, several issues discussed in the report continue to impact people in my community, especially those who are economically disadvantaged. The existing laws should be removed from the books."
Born in Nigeria, Shomade immigrated to the U.S. after graduation from high school, becoming a citizen eight years ago. He attended Clark Atlanta University (B.Sc., with honors) and Georgia Tech (B.C.E.). After earning M.B.A. and J.D. degrees at the University of Virginia, he enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Arizona.
He is licensed to practice law in New York, Texas, Arizona, the District of Columbia and Georgia, his home state.
William "Ted" Stock Research Assistant, B.A., St. Thomas Aquinas College
" As an African-American, I was disturbed by the laws uncovered by this project. My mother spent her childhood in the segregated South. She and others had told me stories about the era, but I had underestimated the societal pervasiveness of segregation and Jim Crow."
Currently a programmer, Ted Stock intends to become an attorney, specializing in areas of interest to minorities, with a specific view towards eradicating discriminatory laws.
To obtain a copy of the Jim Crow Study Group report, call 520-621-8430.
Chin and Hartley, as well as several students, are available via phone (see contact information, attached) for radio and newspaper interviews starting Tuesday morning, Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. EST.
Chin and Hartley will be available for television as well. Stations seeking television interviews need to consult local affiliates for details on uplink availability, windows, and costs. News Desk numbers in Tucson are:
KVOA (NBC) 520-624-2477 KOLD (CBS) 520-744-1313 KGUN (ABC) 520-290-7700