In Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Dawson, African Americans living in Baltimore, Maryland, sued the city’s mayor and city council for maintaining racially segregated, publicly-funded beaches and parks. A federal district court initially dismissed the complaint, holding that the “separate but equal” doctrine established in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson permitted racial segregation as long as the facilities or services involved were substantially equal between races.
On March 14, 1955, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned that ruling, rejecting the city’s argument that racial segregation was justified as a means of ensuring order and avoiding racial conflict. In its decision, the Fourth Circuit held that “segregation cannot be justified as a means to preserve the public peace merely because the tangible facilities furnished to one race are equal to those furnished by the other.” In the view of the court, legal support for the doctrine of “separate but equal” had been swept away by recent landmark Supreme Court rulings like Brown v. Board of Education, decided the previous year.
The City of Baltimore appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. On November 7, 1955, the Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit’s decision in a per curiam order endorsing the lower court’s rejection of segregation in public recreational facilities and adopting its decision as national, binding precedent.
“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar. America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans. The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood. EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.