The Fourteenth Amendment "is one of a series of constitutional provisions having a common purpose; namely, securing to a race recently emancipated, a race that through many generations had been held in slavery, all the civil rights that the superior race enjoy. The true spirit and meaning of the amendments . . . cannot be understood without keeping in view the history of the times when they were adopted, and the general objects they plainly sought to accomplish. At the time when they were incorporated into the Constitution, it required little knowledge of human nature to anticipate that those who had long been regarded as an inferior and subject race would, when suddenly raised to the rank of citizenship, be looked upon with jealousy and positive dislike, and that State laws might be enacted or enforced to perpetuate the distinctions that had before existed… [The Fourteenth Amendment] was designed to assure to the colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that under the law are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government in that enjoyment, whenever it should be denied by the States. It not only gave citizenship and the privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but it denied to any State the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws, and authorized Congress to enforce its provision by appropriate legislation."1506 Thus, a state law which on its face worked a discrimination against African Americans was void.1507 In addition, "[t]hough the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet, if it is applied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the Constitution."1508
1506 Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 306-07 (1880).
1507 Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880) (law limiting jury service to white males). Moreover it will not do to argue that a law that segregates the races or prohibits contacts between them discriminates equally against both races. Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917) (ordinance prohibiting blacks from occupying houses in blocks where whites were predominant and whites from occupying houses in blocks where blacks were predominant). Compare Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883) (sustaining conviction under statute that imposed a greater penalty for adultery or fornication between a white person and a Negro than was imposed for similar conduct by members of the same race, using "equal application" theory), with McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 188 (1964), and Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 10 (1967) (rejecting theory).
1508 Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 373-74 (1886) (discrimination against Chinese).
Last modified: June 9, 2014