Amdt14.S1.8.3.4 Public Facilities and Segregation

Fourteenth Amendment, 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.

Beginning in the 1950s, the Court also struck down the segregation of publicly provided or supported facilities and functions, summarily vacating and remanding a long series of cases for reconsideration under Brown.1 In 1963, the Court held segregated courtroom seating a “manifest violation” of equal protection.2 That same year, the Court held that neither expense nor potential public unrest warranted granting Memphis more time for “gradual desegregation” of its parks.3 It also held that a municipality could not operate a racially segregated park, even though a private party, in bequeathing the park to the city, had imposed a Whites-only rule.4 As the Court saw it, “[c]onduct that is formally ‘private’ may become so entwined with governmental policies or so impregnated with a governmental character as to become subject to the constitutional limitations placed upon state action.” 5 Such was the case with the park, which the city maintained even after private trustees were appointed.6 Rather than desegregate the park, however, the Court ruled that a state court could hold that the trust had failed and hand the park over to the decedent’s heirs.7 Similarly, the Court held in 1971 that a municipality under court order to desegregate its publicly owned swimming pools could comply by closing the pools instead, so long as it completely stopped operating them.8

E.g., Mayor of Baltimore v. Dawson, 350 U.S. 877 (1955) (public beaches and bathhouses); Holmes v. City of Atlanta, 350 U.S. 879 (1955) (municipal golf courses); Muir v. Louisville Park Theatrical Ass’n, 347 U.S. 971 (1954) (city lease of park facilities); New Orleans City Park Improvement Ass’n v. Detiege, 358 U.S. 54 (1958) (public parks and golf courses); State Athletic Comm’n v. Dorsey, 359 U.S. 533 (1959) (statute requiring segregated athletic contests); Turner v. City of Memphis, 369 U.S. 350 (1962) (administrative regulation requiring segregation in airport restaurant); Schiro v. Bynum, 375 U.S. 395 (1964) (ordinance requiring segregation in municipal auditorium). back
Johnson v. Virginia, 373 U.S. 61, 62 (1963). back
Watson v. City of Memphis, 373 U.S. 526, 528, 535, 539 (1963). The Court declined to hold that delays tolerated in post-Brown school desegregation authorized delays in other public services. Id. back
Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296 (1966). State courts had removed the city as trustee. Id. back
Id. at 299. back
Id. at 301. back
Evans v. Abney, 396 U.S. 435 (1970). The Court thought that in carrying out the testator’s intent in the fashion best permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment, the state courts engaged in no action violating the Equal Protection Clause. Id. back
Palmer v. Thompson, 403 U.S. 217 (1971). The Court found that there was no official encouragement of discrimination through the act of closing the pools and that there was no unlawful discrimination because both White and Black citizens were deprived of the use of the pools. Id. back