That opportunity came with the 1954 case of Brown v.Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in which Chief Justice Earl Warren declared on behalf of a unanimous court that the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race violated the Constitution's 14th Amendment, because "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This ruling was a major victory for the NAACP and for Thurgood Marshall, who argued the case before the Court and would subsequently be named the nation's first African-American Supreme Court justice.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited slavery in the United States.
The 14th Amendment defined American citizenship based on birth (not race), and guaranteed to all persons equal protection and due process of law.
However, getting southern states to adhere to the Court's mandate would be no easy task and after the Brown decision the civil rights strategy clearly shifted from litigation to political activism and protest. In the summer of 1955, a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till was lynched in the small town of Money, Mississippi, presumably for having said "bye, baby" to a white woman in a candy store.
Throughout 1955, local sheriffs in the South stepped up the enforcement of Jim Crow laws and customs, notwithstanding the clear direction of the Supreme Court towards invalidating such segregation.
The 15th Amendment forbade states from denying citizens the right to vote based on their race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
With these Civil War Amendments and Congress' Reconstruction program, there was, for the first time in our history, a chance to bring about a more racially just society.
However, the Depression also helped forge a political realignment in the United States in which African-Americans, long faithful to Lincoln's Republican Party, were now part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Democratic New Deal Coalition.
Together with intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, poor farmers and organized labor, African-Americans were part of a new progressivism in the United States which would redefine American society and government's role within it.
When the United States' entry into World War II seemed an inevitability, the African-American labor leader A.
Philip Randolph threatened a demonstration in the nation's capital to protest unjust treatment at home.