How Civil Disobedience Helps Overcome Oppression: Part 1
“From Plessy to Brown”
In 1892, Homer Plessy (who was 7/8 white and 1/8 black) decided to challenge Louisiana’s “Separate Car Act” by riding a train car for white passengers. No one recognized that he was part-Black, so he deliberately told the conductor his race.
After getting charged, his team took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, assuming the 14th amendment (which gave former slaves equal protection) would be on his side. It wasn’t, and the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision ushered in Jim Crow: Separate but “equal”.
Over the next 60 years, Black lawyers in the NAACP used cases to bring to light the horrible effects of segregation — especially in Black schools. Charles Hamilton Houston was one of the leaders in this charge.
At the same time, Black people were seeing themselves in a different light (especially after WWII) and were tired of the “status quo” way of life.
Finally, the 1954 Brown vs Board decision said segregation was unconstitutional and basically implied the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson ruling was illegal.
The fight for equal treatment was fought in the courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court was finally on Black folks’ side.
Racism ended, right?
If only it were that easy.
View Part 2 here.
**About this series:
We’re showing a multi-part series on how CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE has been the main catalyst that has overcome oppression in the U.S.
Throughout history, most of the major “civil disturbances” in America have stemmed from Black people peacefully fighting for equal rights, only for the oppressor to resist. This causes a disturbance that forces the powers that be to eventually enforce laws to finally move the country forward.
We’re showing this because we still have some MAJOR work do. Yes, slavery and segregation are legally over, but there’s still Police Brutality and the root cause of all oppression — the “keep-away of wealth” — to overcome. Reparations are the main solution to this.
There’s been major resistance to addressing police brutality and solving the wealth gap issue. Major legislation doesn’t get passed/enforced without PRESSURE from the oppressed.
History has shown this time-and-time again.
Many of the clips in this series are originally from 1986’s “Eyes on the Prize”, which highlights the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. This movement allowed us to eat at lunch counters, mingle together, etc without any laws being broken. The movement became effective solely because of non-violent civil disobedience!
It’s easy to see this now, but America has been segregated much longer than integrated. There’s still much work that needs to be done if we’re going to have true “equity” in our land.
Look at what happened during the George Floyd uprisings of 2020. Sure, riots were there, but the majority of the protests were peaceful. New laws were introduced, and the way America “saw” Black people started to change.
In all, Civil disobedience has been the real catalyst for change, and this video series reminds us how effective it can be.