Opinion - Briggs - Supp.529

The case came on for a trial upon the issues as presented in the complaint and answer. But upon the call of the case, defendants' counsel announced that they wished to make a statement on behalf of the defendants making certain admissions and praying that the Court make a finding as to inequalities in respect to buildings, equipment, facilities, curricula and other aspects of the schools provided for children in School District 22 in Clarendon County and giving the public authorities time to formulate plans for ending such inequalities. In this statement defendants claim that they never had intended to discriminate against any of the pupils and although they had filed an answer to the complaint, some five months ago, denying inequalities they now admit that they had found some; but rely upon the fact that subsequent to the institution of this suit, James F. Byrnes, the Governor of South Carolina, had stated in his inaugural address that the State must take steps to provide money for improving educational facilities and that thereafter, the Legislature had adopted certain legislation. They stated that they hoped that in time they would obtain money as a result of the foregoing and improve the school situation.

This statement was allowed to be filed and considered as an amendment to the answer.

By this maneuver, the defendants have endeavored to induce this Court to avoid the primary purpose of the suit. And if the Court should follow this suggestion and fail to meet the issues raised by merely considering this case in the light of another 'separate but equal' case, the entire purpose and reason for the institution of the case and the convening of a three-judge court would be voided. The 66 plaintiffs in this cause have brought this suit at what must have cost much in effort and financial expenditures. They are here represented by 6 attorneys, all, save one, practicing lawyers from without the State of South Carolina and coming here from a considerable distance. The plaintiffs have brought a large number of witnesses exclusive of themselves. As a matter of fact, they called and examined 11 witnesses. They said that they had a number more coming who did not arrive in time owing to the shortening of the proceedings and they also stated that they had on hand and had contemplated calling a large number of other witnesses but this became unnecessary by reason of the foregoing admissions by defendants. It certainly appears that large expenses must have been caused by the institution of this case and great efforts expended in gathering data, making a study of the issues involved, interviewing and bringing numerous witnesses, some of whom are foremost scientists in America. And in addition to all of this, these 66 plaintiffs have not merely expended their time and money in order to test this important Constitutional question, but they have shown unexampled courage in bringing and presenting this cause at their own expense in the fact of the long established and age-old pattern of the way of life which the State of South Carolina has adopted and practiced and lived in since and as a result of the institution of human slavery.

If a case of this magnitude can be turned aside and a court refused to hear these basic issues by the mere device of admission that some buildings, blackboards, lighting fixtures and toilet facilities are unequal but that they may be remedied by the spending of a few dollars, then, indeed people in the plight in which these plaintiffs are, have no adequate remedy or forum in which to air their wrongs. If this method of judicial evasion be adopted, these very infant plaintiffs now pupils in Clarendon County will probably be bringing suits for their children and grandchildren decades or rather generations hence in an effort to get for their descendants what are today denied to them. If they are entitled to any rights as American citizens, they are entitled to have these rights now and not in the future. And no excuse can be made to deny them these rights which are theirs under the Constitution and laws of America by the use of the false doctrine and patter called 'separate but equal' and it is the duty of the Court to meet these issues simply and factually and without fear, sophistry and evasion. If this be the measure of justice to be meted out to them, then, indeed, hundreds, nay thousands, of cases will have to be brought and in each case thousands of dollars will have to be spend for the employment of legal talent and scientific testimony and then the cases will be turned aside, postponed or eliminated by devices such as this.

We should be unwilling to straddle or avoid this issue and if the suggestion made by these defendants is to be adopted as the type of justice to be meted out by this Court, then I want no part of it.

And so we must and do face, without evasion or equivocation, the question as to whether segregation in education in our schools is legal or whether it cannot exist under out American system as particularly enunciated in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Before the American Civil War, the institution of human slavery had been adopted and was approved in this country. Slavery was nothing new in the world. From the dawn of history we see aggressors enslaving weak and less fortunate neighbors. Back through the days of early civilization man practiced slavery. We read of it in Biblical days; we read of it in the Greek City States and in the great Roman Empire. Throughout medieval Europe, forms of slavery existed and it was widely practiced in Asia Minor and the Eastern countries and perhaps reached its worst form in Nazi Germany. Class and caste have, unfortunately, existed through the ages. But, in time, mankind, through evolution and progress, through ethical and religious concepts, through the study of the teachings of the great philosophers and the great religious teachers, including especially the founder of Christianity- mankind began to revolt against the enslavement of body, mind and soul of one human being by another. And so there came about a great awakening. The British who had indulged in the slave trade, awakened to the fact that it was immoral and against the right thinking ideology of the Christian world. And in this country, also, came about a moral awakening. Unfortunately, this had not been sufficiently advanced at the time of the adoption of the American Constitution for the institution of slavery to be prohibited. But there was a struggle and the better thinking leaders in our Constitutional Convention endeavored to prohibit slavery but unfortunately compromised the issue on the insistent demands of those who were engaged in the slave trade and the purchase and use of slaves. And so as time went on, slavery was perpetuated and eventually became a part of the life and culture of certain of the States of this Union although the rest of the world looked on with shame and abhorrence.

As was so well said, this country could not continue to exist one-half slave and one-half free and long years of war were entered into before the nation was willing to eradicate this system which was, itself, a denial of the brave and fine statements of the Declaration of Independence and a denial of freedom as envisioned and advocated by our Founders.

The United States then adopted the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and it cannot be denied that the basic reason for all of these Amendments to the Constitution was to wipe out completely the institution of slavery and to declare that all citizens in this country should be considered as free, equal and entitled to all of the provisions of citizenship.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is as follows: 'Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'