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Legal Brief of Cooper v. Aaron (1958) by: David A.W. Hittle

Cooper v. Aaron (1958)

358 U.S. 1; 78 S. Ct. 1401; 3 L.Ed. 2 d. 5 (1958)

Vote: 9 to 0


The facts of this case are these: On September 2, 1957 a day before [African Americans] students were to enter Central High, the school authorities were met with drastic opposing action on the part of the Governor of Arkansas who dispatched units of the Arkansas National Guard to the Central High School grounds and placed the school “off limits” to colored students. As found by the District Court in subsequent proceedings, the governors actions had not been requested by the school authorities, and was entirely unheralded… On September 4, 1957 the [African American] students attempted to enter the school. The National Guard “acting pursuant to the Governors order, stood shoulder to shoulders at the school grounds and there by forcibly prevented 9 [African American] students from entering” as they continued to do every school day during the following three weeks….


The issues in this case are these: Were the [African American] students Fourteenth Amendment Rights violated; in that they were denied equal protection under the law?


The Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision finds that the 9 [African American] students Fourteenth Amendment Rights were violated in that the State didn’t provide for the equal protection of the students.


The opinion in this case was written by: The Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Black, Mr. Justice Frankfurter, Mr. Justice Douglas, Mr. Justice Burton, Mr. Justice Clark, Mr. Justice Harlan, Mr, Justice Brennan, and Mr. Justice Whittaker. The opinion is basically layed out in the following statement: “The controlling legal principles are plain. The command of the Fourteenth Amendment is that no “State” shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…. This is what the Governor did when he prevented [African American] students from entering a state run, public school.


The significance is: that the Supreme Court made clear that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited segregation as white students and black students were not being protected equally.