Law in American Society Black History Month Essay Contest



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Law in American Society

Black History Month Essay Contest
Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States during the month of February. In celebrating the contributions African Americans have made to American history, and in working to deepen our understanding of our nation’s history, LPHS will hold an essay contest and assembly. Read more below.

Throughout U.S. history, many African American activists have sought justice through the legal system. Some like J.D. Shelley and Mildred Loving, brought cases to the Supreme Court that ushered in dramatic changes in federal law. Others like Dred Scott and Homer Plessy were unable to overturn entrenched racist policies. Yet, in each case these men and women demonstrated courage and fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds. In a 500-600 word essay, you will: 1) describe why the person involved brought the case forward, and why this person represents the IB trait of risk-taker, 2) describe the case they brought forth to the Supreme Court, 3) evaluate the results and the legacy of this case.
Read the articles about one of the following cases:

  • Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)- Decreed a slave was his master's property and African Americans were not citizens; struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional.

    • Dred Scott Foundation: http://www.thedredscottfoundation.org/dshf/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=55

    • PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2932.html

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1856/1856_0/

  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)- The Court stated that segregation was legal and constitutional as long as "facilities were equal"—the famous "separate but equal" segregation policy.

    • PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_plessy.html

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1895/1895_210

  • Powell v. Alabama (1932)- The Supreme Court overturned the "Scottsboro Boys'" convictions and guaranteed counsel in state and federal courts.

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1932/1932_98

    • Scottsboro Case: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_scotts.html

  • Shelley v. Kraemer (1948)- The justices ruled that a court may not constitutionally enforce a "restrictive covenant" which prevents people of certain race from owning or occupying property.

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1947/1947_72/

    • Shelley House: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/mo1.htm

  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)- Reversed Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" ruling. "[S]egregation [in public education] is a denial of the equal protection of the laws."

    • PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1952/1952_1/

  • Aurelia S. Browder v. William A. Gayle  (1956) This decision challenged the Alabama state statutes and Montgomery, Alabama, city ordinances requiring segregation on Montgomery buses.

    • http://www.tolerance.org/article/browder-v-gayle-women-rosa-parks

    • http://www.morethanabusride.org/browdervgayle.htm

  • Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964)- This case challenged the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court ruled that the motel had no right "to select its guests as it sees fit, free from governmental regulation."

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_515

    • Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/258476/Heart-of-Atlanta-Motel-v-United-States

  • Loving v. Virginia (1967)- This decision ruled that the prohibition on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. Sixteen states that still banned interracial marriage at the time were forced to revise their laws.

    • OYEZ: http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1966/1966_395

    • Encyclopedia Virginia: http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Loving_v_Virginia_1967#start_entry


Steps to complete the essay

  1. Day 1: Students will be assigned one case to present to the class. In groups of 3-4 you will complete a 3-minute presentation of their case. Then you will select the top 3 cases that you would like to research further.




  1. Day 2: Complete the graphic organizer below using the websites provided on the previous page. Make sure that you ALWAYS use parenthetical citations.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Introduce the person who brought this case forward and why they brought this case to the Supreme Court. Introduce the case. What was the petitioner’s concern or problem? In what ways was this person a risk taker?

  • Example: Dred Scott was a slave who risked everything for a chance to gain liberty through the Supreme Court system (Oyez)



Paragraph 2: Key Facts of the Case

Here is where you must explain the key facts of the case in greater detail. What were the key facts of the case? What was the historical context? What constitutional amendment was involved? What was the legal issue?

  • You must use the proper format for a legal issue: At issue is whether _(respondent)_ violated _(petitioner’s)_ __(Amendment #)__ right to __(description of amendment)__ when he/she/they ___(Describe Action)___.




Paragraph 3: Results and Legacy

The petitioner was a risk taker, but did his or her risk in bringing forward a Supreme Court case have the results that he/she hoped. Here is where you present the Supreme Court’s decision in this case and the possible legacy of this decision for the petitioner and for others.





  1. Day 3-4: Use your day two notes to develop a 500-600 word essay.

    • The essay must be double spaced

    • 12 point font

    • Times New Roman.

    • ….that means your essay should be 1.5 to 2 pages total.




  1. Day 5: Share out what you have learned to the class.



Score

Criterion D: Critical Thinking


0

The student does not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors below.

1-2

The student:

  1. analyses concepts and issues in a Supreme Court case to a limited extent

  2. summarizes information to a limited extent to make arguments

  3. identifies different perspectives and minimal implications. (For example, individual perspective of the petitioner, legal/constitutional perspective, historical perspective, community perspective)

3-4

The student:

  1. analyses some concepts and issues in a Supreme Court case

  2. summarizes information to make arguments

  3. interprets different perspectives and some of their implications. (For example, individual perspective of the petitioner, legal/constitutional perspective, historical perspective, community perspective)

5-6

The student:

  1. discusses concepts and issues in a Supreme Court case

  2. synthesizes information to make valid arguments

  3. interprets different perspectives and their implications. (For example, individual perspective of the petitioner, legal/constitutional perspective, historical perspective, community perspective)

7-8

The student:

  1. completes a detailed discussion of concepts and issues in a Supreme Court case

  2. synthesizes information to make valid, well-supported arguments

  3. thoroughly interprets a range of different perspectives and their implications (For example, individual perspective of the petitioner, legal/constitutional perspective, historical perspective, community perspective)




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