1857: Dread Scott v. Sanford: A slave sued for his freedom based on the fact that Missouri was a free territory. The Supreme Court decided against the slave, stating that he was his master’s property. This decision also ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it deprived a slave owner of property. This is largely considered the worst decision in the Supreme Court’s history.
1883: The Civil Rights Cases: A series of cases where the Supreme Court was called upon to interpret the 13th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. One of the decisions made in these cases was that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was not constitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 gave African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations, and the Supreme Court decision that it was unconstitutional specifically stated that Congress was not afforded control over private persons or corporations.
1896: Plessy v Ferguson: Also known as “separate but equal” in which the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana Law that required hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other public places to serve African Americans in separate, but equal, facilities.
1954: Brown v Board of Education: The Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ had no place. They ruled that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal.
1956: Brown v Board II: The Supreme Court ruled that school systems must abolish their racially segregated, or dual, systems ‘with all deliberate speed.’
1956: The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Montgomery bus system’s segregation was illegal, giving a major victory in the Civil Rights Movement to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
1964: The Supreme Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations such as hotel rooms and restaurants.
1966: Miranda v. Arizona: This landmark decision put into place the Miranda process, in which suspects must be informed of their constitutional rights prior to police questioning. These rights include the right to be represented by counsel and the right to remain silent and therefore, not incriminate oneself.
2014: Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.: This decision upheld the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 stating that an employer who holds religious objections is not obligated to offer its employees contraceptive health care.
2015: Obergefell v Hodges: This landmark decision struck down same-sex marriage bans in states that held them, granting the constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.
These are just a few of the decisions that the Supreme Court has made in view of civil rights. All citizens should pay attention to when the Supreme Court issues decisions. Their role is to interpret the Constitution, and that affects each and every one of us.