The words "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" written in the Declaration of Independence were not meant for everyone in society and some people were still wrapped in the chains of injustice. However, after almost 175 years, these chains were rusting and on June 5, 1950, they started breaking out.
After the Civil War in 1865, black Americans received the freedom they had always deserved and sought, but the struggle was not over. On that fateful year of 1896, the famous doctrine of "separate but equal" was declared. Basically all facilities were divided by race. These included restaurants, parks, theatres, schools, and even restrooms. Even though this was the case, it was still considered "equal." These equal facilities were not so equal, and black Americans had to endure many hardships such as a lack of access to quality education.
George McLaurin, a black teacher, applied to the University of Oklahoma in order to seek his doctorate degree. The school admitted him, but he was separated from white students. Everything was, well, "specially set aside" for him, from the classrooms to the cafeteria table where he sat down to eat. Just imagine the feeling of being isolated from all the other people just because the color of your skin did not match the others.
Obviously, he knew how unfair this was and took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 5, 1950, in the case titled McLaurin V. Oklahoma State Regents, the court ruled that this type of education does in fact create educational inequality. The restrictions from his university were removed and he became part of the campus, just like everyone else. This Supreme Court decision ultimately weakened the structure of legalized segregation and paved the way for its nonexistence.
By 1956, all facilities were integrated and the country was finally united. Maybe it is beneficial that perfection does not exist, because if it would, there would not be any ambition for improvement.
This is what is so great about this nation. It is always seeking to do better. There are some things that still have not been solved but when I look back and see this, I smile and realize that change for the better is headed our way.
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Why Today Matters is written by Berryville resident Angel Portillo. Portillo is an undergrad at University of Arkansas, seeking his bachelor's degree in History. His column appears on Tuesdays.