BHM 2017 Day 5 — Going back in Time: The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments

Hi folks,

Sorry for the delay. Work has been a bear. I wanted to take a few minutes to go back in time and go over the 13th-15th amendments and the miracle of getting them passed. You will find that we as a people had virtually NOTHING to do with this process. And the tangled reasons for it. Maybe 13 was somewhat altruistic, but 14 and 15 were pure politics. What will be interesting is to see the wording of #14, and how it has been used in the future.

As most of you know, only the states that ceded were impacted by the Emancipation Proclamation, and Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware were not required to set their slave free. So what changed?

Let’s start with the 13th amendment. It reads as follows:

Amendment XIII

Section 1

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


In the final years of the Civil War, a bill proposing a constitutional amendment was introduced by a Congressman from Ohio. Another was introduced by a Congressman from Iowa, and a 3rd was introduced in January 1864 by a Senator from Missouri.  There were several additional wordings of the amendment debated in the Senate, but it was finally passed, 38 to 6, with only two Democrat Senators saying aye, in April, 1864. Then it went to Congress, where it failed, 93 to 65, short of the 2/3rds majority. The controversy continued after the presidential candidates debated putting it in their platforms. It was not considered a moral argument, although there was talk that it would lead to revolution. But some said that slavery was uncivilized, and even had negative effects on white people, such as lower wages. Finally, after his re-election, Lincoln was able to push the bill through in late 1864. Next was the effort to get it ratified by 3/4th of the states. Lincoln offered “any means necessary” to get ratification, promising government posts and campaign contributions. Representative Thaddeus Stevens commented later that “the greatest measure of the nineteenth century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”; however, Lincoln’s precise role in making deals for votes remains unknown. They did get the necessary votes in February 1865, 119 to 56 with 17 abstentions. So, next was ratification. Within the end of February, 18 states had ratified. Including Virginia and Louisiana, due to Reconstruction governments. And then next, in April, Lincoln was assassinated. President Johnson was went “hard-core” on Reconstruction, only allowing politicians in favor of Reconstruction to hold office. So of course, those states ratified the amendment. But there was still a fear that blacks would be able to vote and become politically active. Johnson and others in his administration assured the Southern states that this would not happen. And so, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia ratified the amendment, securing the 3/4ths majority.


I want to point out that there is a “twist” to the 13th amendment, and that is the clause about being convicted. It is in the best interests of Americans trying to suppress the black vote to incarcerate us, and thus disenfranchise us, and put us to work as indentured servants. This is happening now in private prisons, it happened after Reconstruction with the Birmingham mines and steel works, as well as the building of the railroads. Incarcerated men, for as little as vagrancy, were hauled off to work in inhumane conditions. Some wrote home about it to their families. And some died. So, it is important to fight against unreasonable incarceration, and for the restoration of voting rights of those who have completed their sentences, because it hurts us in so many ways.


Now, back to the “story”. So what happened next? The 14th Amendment.


Amendment XIV

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.


Section 3

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.


Section 4

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.


Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article



It’s rather obvious from the 4 following sections that the intent of this Amendment was to be punitive, almost as if conferring citizen rights to blacks was an afterthought, or simply a way to hurt Southern whites, emotionally, financially and politically. However, the first section of the 14th Amendment is actually very powerful in its sweeping conferral of citizenry, and equal protection under the law to all residents of the US. It propelled Brown v. Board of Education (integration), overturned Dred Scot v. Sandford (blacks are entitled to representation in court) and even supported Roe v. Wade (abortion rights), and the Obergfell v. Hodges case regarding same-sex marriage.

The entire reason for the first clause was to dilute the power of Southern states in how they could influence Congress. It started with a Civil Rights Act of 1866, which was overturned by veto to give ex-slaves citizen rights and combat the “Black Codes” passed in the Southern states which attempted to return ex-slaves to something like their former condition by, among other things, restricting their movement, forcing them to enter into year-long labor contracts, prohibiting them from owning firearms, and preventing them from suing or testifying in court.  After the Civil Rights Act was passed, efforts toward an amendment were crafted. 70 proposals were drafted. For example, an amendment was drafted stating that any citizens barred from voting on the basis of race by a state would not be counted for purposes of representation of that state. Another one that failed would enable Congress to safeguard “equal protection of life, liberty, and property” of all citizens. The final version did pass, the Senate, 33 to 11, and the House 138 to 36 in 1866. Ratification in the states was bitterly contested. Every former confederate state refused it. As a result, military government was imposed, and states that wouldn’t ratify were denied seats in Congress. That did it. By July 1868, the amendment was ratified.

The Radical Republicans were satisfied that they had secured civil rights for blacks, but were disappointed that the amendment would not also secure political rights for blacks, in particular the right to vote.  For example, Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of the disappointed Radical Republicans said: “I find that we shall be obliged to be content with patching up the worst portions of the ancient edifice, and leaving it, in many of its parts, to be swept through by the tempests, the frosts, and the storms of despotism. Abolitionst Wendell Phillips  called it a “fatal and total surrender”.  This point would later be addressed by the Fifteenth Amendment.


By comparison to the 14th Amendment, the 15th was simple.


Amendment XV

Section 1

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


Section 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


By 1869, amendments had been passed to abolish slavery and provide citizenship and equal protection under the laws, but the election of Ulysses Grant to the presidency in 1868 convinced a majority of Republicans that protecting the franchise of black male voters was important for the party’s future. On February 26, 1869, after rejecting more sweeping versions of a suffrage amendment, Congress proposed a compromise amendment banning franchise restrictions on the basis of race, color, or previous servitude. The amendment survived a difficult ratification fight and was adopted on March 30, 1870.


I wrote all of this, not just because it’s interesting, but because it’s an important forebear to the Civil Rights Movement. These amendments clearly state our rights, and white Americans clearly obstructed them through numerous means. So, our efforts to fight back were more than reasonable. It was just a matter of convincing the majority, 100 years later, that these rights were earned, deserved, and mandated.


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BHM 2017 – Day 4: Civil Rights Lawyers Across America

I hope to make these interesting. And if not, to show just how many lawyers were involved in the civil rights effort. Aside from Marshall and Motley, I haven’t heard of Any of them. So again, I hope their stories are compelling, even if I can only share a piece of who they were.

Arthur Shores (1904 – 1996) was considered Alabama’s “drum major for justice”. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha, he graduated from Talladega, spent one year at the law school of  U Kansas, then did the rest of his law training by correspondence school, passing the bar in 1937. He went straight into civil rights law, fighting for the right to vote, fighting to open unions to black firemen, fighting for equal pay. He fought before the Supreme Court for Autherine Lucy to be able to attended U Alabama in 1955. His hope was fire-bombed twice, in 1963 when he was trying to integrate Birmingham public schools, 11 days before the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

Spottswood Robinson III (1916-1977) joined the NAACP LDF in 1947. Previously he went to school at Virginia Union University and graduate from Howard Law School in 1939. He was part of the team that argued Brown v. Board of Education. Robinson was initially involved in the case when in 1951, a group of Virginia students wanted to obtain equal facilities in their school (Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County)  He convinced them instead to argue for integration. Robinson returned to Howard University School of Law to become dean from 1960-1964. He left to become the first African American to be appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1966, Judge Robinson became the first African American appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He retired from the bench in 1989.

Oliver Hill (1907 – 2007) was another NAACP LDF lawyer. He was a student of Charles Houston at Howard, having attended undergraduate and graduate school there. He graduated 2nd in his class behind Marshall in 1933. He worked with Robinson on the Davis case, ending up on the team of lawyers working on the Brown case in front of the Supreme Court. He continued practicing law up to 1998 and was honored with the NAACP Spingarn Award as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Jack Greenberg, (1924- ) was the first white and youngest lawyer on the NAACP team. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at Columbia University, graduating in 1948 and went straight into the NAACP LDF in 1949. The piece of the Brown case that Greenberg worked on was the Delaware case, Gebhart v. Belton. Delaware was one of the 17 states with segregated schools, in fact, it was written into the state constitution, and while the schools were supposed to be equal, African-American schools in Delaware were generally decrepit, with poor facilities, substandard curricula, and shoddy construction.  Delaware had a special court system, with a Court of Chancery for deciding cases involving equity vs. money.  The court ruled that segregation was untenable, but since it would overrule the original Plessy v. Ferguson case (separate but equal – 18xx), it needed to be argued in the supreme court. After the Brown case, when Marshall went on to the Supreme Court, from 1961 to 1984, Greenberg served as director-counsel. In 1984, he became a member of the faculty at Columbia University Law School. He was the dean of Columbia College from 1989-1993, after which he remained on the faculty of the law school.

John (1919–1984) and Charles(1921–1989) Scott. John Scott received his formal education at Topeka High School and the University of Kansas. After graduation, John followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1942 entered the law school at Washburn University. He completed only two years before he was called for active duty in World War II. In 1946 John Scott returned to Washburn University to complete his law degree. He graduated on June 8, 1947, and joined the family law firm. Charles Scott attended Topeka Public Schools and graduated from Topeka High School. In 1940 he began pursuing a career in law by enrolling at Washburn, only to be interrupted by World War II. During the war he was assigned to the all-black Second Calvary Division and served in southern France.. In 1946, after the war, Charles Scott reenrolled in Washburn University and acquired his law degree in 1948. From there he joined the family practice where he, his father and brother were successful in securing the racial integration of elementary schools in South Park, Johnson County, Kansas as well as several cases that sought to allow blacks access to swimming pools, theaters, and restaurants in Topeka. In 1951 Charles and John Scott were among the attorneys who represented the NAACP in filing their landmark case, Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka. Only in their early thirties, Charles and his brother had gained national attention as a result of the Brown case. Charles chose to stay in Topeka to pursue civil and human rights issues, while John relocated to Washington dc, where he took a position in the Department of the Interior as assistant solicitor.

James Nabrit Jr. (1900 – 1997) was born in Georgia, attended Morehouse and went on to school at Northwestern U Law School in 1927. He then taught colleges in Louisiana and Arkansas and had a private practice in Texas. Nabrit began teaching law at Howard in 1936, served as dean of the law school in1958 and became Howard’s president from 1960-1965. During the 1940’s – 1950’s he helped with NAACP LDF cases. He handled the Bolling vs. Sharpe case around desegregating DC public schools, which went forward to the Supreme Court as part of the Brown case.

James Nabrit III (1932 – 2013), son of Nabrit Jr., was educated in the then-segregated public schools of Washington, D. attended, Bates College in Maine and Yale Law School.  Prior to joining LDF, Mr. Nabrit was in private practice was in active duty service for two years in the United States Army Signal Corps. Nabrit joined the LDF in 1959. He was a quiet, but forceful presence at LDF.  He was known for his meticulous preparation of briefs and brilliant appellate advocacy.  During his long tenure at LDF, Nabrit played a critical role in the series of cases involving issues that helped transform American society, including school desegregation, public accommodations, prison conditions and criminal defense.  He argued on twelve occasions in the United States Supreme Court, prevailing in nine of those cases. Nabrit was part of the team that wrote the plan presented to Judge Frank Johnson in Alabama in 1965 for the final Selma to Montgomery march that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  He served on the team that litigated the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, represented civil rights activists arrested during sit-ins in Louisiana, and was a key figure in the litigation desegregating schools in Northern Virginia.  He played a seminal role in the Keyes v. Denver School District No.1 school desegregation litigation.  Nabrit’s Supreme Court and appellate practice also included the representation of inmates on death row, and he recalled these cases as the ones of which he was most proud.

Frank D. Reeves (1916-1973) Reeves was born in Montreal, Canada. He earned undergraduate and law degrees at Howard University. After receiving his law degree in 1939, Reeves worked for the NAACP in New York City. In the 1950s he worked with Thurgood Marshall, James Nabrit, and others on the battle to desegregate public schools. He was the first African American chosen to sit on the DC Board of Commissioners, the three-man panel that ran the city from 1874 until limited home rule was instituted in 1967. Reeves helped argue the Brown case in 1954. In 1960 Reeves became the first African American member of the Democratic National Committee. He served as an advisor on minority affairs to Senator John F. Kennedy during his campaign for the presidency.

Reeves taught at the Howard University School of Law during the 1960s. At the same time he was legal counsel to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and helped negotiate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom as well as the Poor Peoples Campaign in 1967.

Louis Lorenzo Redding (October 25, 1901 – September 28, 1998) was born in Alexandria, VA, attended Brown U graduating with honors, taught at Morehouse and then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1928. He passed the Delaware bar in 1929 and became the first black lawyer in Delaware, and the only one in the state for 25 years. Before the Brown case, Redding argued a successful case to integrate the University of Delaware. In 1952, he brought a case to Delaware’s Chancery court to integrate the public schools. The judge wanted to rule in favor, but did not want to contradict the Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” doctrine, and pushed the case to the Supreme Court, where it was combined into the Brown case. Later in 1961, Redding argued a case upholding the Supreme Court decision that public accommodations be integrated. All totaled, Redding practiced law for 57 years.

Simpson Tate (1900 – 1968) was born in Alabama, attended Lincoln U for his bachelors and masters, then went on to Howard U for his law degree in 1947. In 1948 he moved to Texas and became the attorney for the Southwest Region of the NAACP. In 1949, he filed a legal challenge to improve a black public school in Arkansas,  alleging that the black high school was old and unsafe.  He also noted the omission of certain subjects at the African American school such as chemistry, physics, and the romance languages—courses that were available at the white high school. He then embraced the NAACP strategy to desegregate colleges, starting with Louisiana State University Law School. By 1954, 11 Texas junior colleges were integrated. He also filed against several institutions, including the University of North Texas College, Lamar College, Midwestern University, and the University of Texas, El Paso. Tate won dozens of lawsuits that desegregated schools, parks, hospitals, and other public facilities across the Southwest. Tate worked on other cases as well, including a 1951 challenge to voting discrimination in Harrison County, Texas. Tate also filed a successful lawsuit against the United Steelworkers of America which helped to end segregation in the steel industry in Texas. Tate died of a stroke in 1968 at the age of 68. Roy Wilkins, executive director of the NAACP in 1955, remarked that “Mr. Tate rendered invaluable service not only to the NAACP but to the entire southwest region.”


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BHM 2017 – Day 3: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund – Beyond Brown

Yesterday I wrote about the LDF’s “equalization policy”. The sweeping efforts of this organization are probably under-reported. The LDF was instrumental in critical lower court cases like getting MLK out of jail, or getting clemency for sit-in demonstrators.  Even with Brown v. Board of Education, there was a process that the LDF organized on several fronts. Each of the 5 cases in Brown v. Board was brought to a district court, then a state supreme court, and then, finally, to the Supreme Court. One of the other things I think about is how much money this must of cost. Lawyers have to be paid, staffers have to be paid, research and investigations have costs. I have no doubt that white Northerners were the beneficent donors who funded the LDF. True unsung heroes. The NAACP was always a multi-racial organization.

I say all this to say – we couldn’t have done it alone. Sometimes it’s important to remember.

One of the things that the LDF went after was fair pay and employment issues. In two lawsuits in 1940, the LDF argued cases for fair wages for teachers, so that black and white teachers got the same pay. Also in 1940, the LDF fought and won against the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen who enacted a statute such that “non-promotables” would be excluded from being firemen, no more than 50% of a fire unit could be black, and seniority rights for “non-promotables” would be restricted. In the case, a fireman was laid off for 16 days, then rehired to a lower position, in line with the statute. In 1967 in a lawsuit against the cigarette company Philip Morris, they won a fight against practice of “departmental seniority”, which had forced non-white workers to give up their seniority rights when they transferred to better jobs in previously white-only departments. In a 1971 suit against Duke Power, the court ruled that tests for employment or promotion that produce different outcomes for blacks and whites are to be presumed discriminatory, and must measure aptitude for the job in question or they cannot be used.

The LDF fought desegregation on several fronts beyond public schools. In 1946, they won a case to integrate interstate buses. In 1948, they were able to overturn the legality of racially discriminatory real estate covenants which kept African-Americans out of white suburbs. In 1963, they won cases to integrate public parks and hospitals receiving federal funding. In 1964, they won a case to integrate public facilities such as restaurants.

In the famous Loving v. Virginia case argued before the Supreme Court in 1967, anti-miscegenation laws in 15 states were made unconstitutional, permitting people of different races to marry.

The LDF came to the aid of civil rights activists on several occasions. In 1963, LDF attorneys defended Martin Luther King, Jr. against contempt charges for demonstrating without a permit in Birmingham, AL. In 1965, they obtained a court order to allow a voting-rights march in Alabama, led by King., which had previously been stopped twice by state police. The LDF also won a case to overturn all convictions of demonstrators’ participating in civil rights sit-ins and they got courts to reverse state convictions of Alabama and Mississippi Freedom Riders.

The LDF took on cases specifically dealing with criminal justice. LDF defended against “coerced confessions”, especially for felonious charges. In 1947, they won a case against strategies that excluded African Americans from criminal juries. In 1971, they won a case which upheld the right of prisoners to challenge prison conditions in federal court. Change of venue laws were upheld in 1971, to defend the right of a criminal defendant in a misdemeanor case to a venue where jurors are not biased against him. The LDF also led a fight in the 1970’s against the death penalty.

While researching this blog, I came across a document written for the University of Alabama Law School entitled “Making Bricks without Straw: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Development of Civil Rights Law in Alabama 1940-1980”.  It’s a fascinating article, which actually covers the history of black lawyers from 1869 forward, explaining that even though Harvard trained a few black lawyers, such as Charles Hamilton Houston, senior counsel for the NAACP in the 1930’s, whites and blacks alike didn’t believe that the lawyers could win cases. In contrast, the Howard Law School pumped out hundreds of lawyers where lawyers like Thurgood Marshall thrived. Alabama’s fight to end segregation started with voter registration. To register to vote, a black person had to have two white registered voters to vouch for him, and that was still no guarantee that he would be registered. This law was challenged in 1945. Another challenged law was that registration was only permitted of persons who could understand and explain any article of the Federal Constitution. Still another challenged case was one of three black men who sat in line to register but were denied for three straight days while all of the whites in line were registered. When the city of Tuskegee was redistricted into a “sea dragon” so that blacks were disenfranchised, bringing the number of black voters from 400 to 5, the case went up to the Supreme Court. Even Tuskegee Institute had been gerrymandered out of the City Limits of Tuskegee and this action turned the court.

Even after Brown v. Board of Education, legal fights to gain entry into colleges and universities in the South continued. The article detailed the fights for admission into University of Alabama and Auburn University’s graduate schools, particularly the fight of Autherine Lucy, which spanned from 1952 to 1963, long after the Brown case in 1954.

Suffice to say, the lawyers of the NAACL LDF were busy. Yet, as I said yesterday, winning court cases is no guarantee of enforcement. It truly takes a change in attitude, followed by a change in practices, sometimes the other way around, and sometimes, attitudes never change.

On Monday, I plan to give some brief biographies of the lawyers in the LDF and then I’ll move on to the congressional acts that came out of the Supreme Court cases and mass actions in the South.

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BHM 2017 Day 2: The NAACP Equalization Strategy

Hi all,

Today I’m just going focus on efforts to end segregation of public schools and colleges. Tomorrow, I’ll go over some of the other cases.

In 1909, the NAACP commenced what has become its legacy of fighting legal battles to win social justice for African-Americans and indeed, for all Americans. The most significant of these battles were fought and won under the leadership of Charles Hamilton Houston and his student and protégée, Thurgood Marshall.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Houston trained the first generation of Civil Rights lawyers during his years as Dean of Howard University’s Law School. Houston was appointed in 1935 to be the first Special Counsel of the NAACP. Often referred to as the “Moses of the civil rights movement,” Houston was the architect and chief strategist of the NAACP’s legal campaign to end segregation. Houston amassed a consortium of Black lawyers including Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley as part of a “West Point of Negro Leadership” according to the organization’s account. These attorneys would combat racial segregation alongside Houston.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” principle – as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment (“no State shall … deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws”). In a study commissioned by the NAACP in the 1930s, Nathan Margold found that under segregation, the facilities provided for blacks were always separate, but never equal to those maintained for whites. This, Margold argued, violated the equality aspect of Plessy’s “separate but equal” principle. Margold proposed a series of lawsuits that would challenge the system.

After joining the NAACP, Houston refined Margold’s recommendations, developed a strategy, and implemented a battle plan. Under Houston’s “equalization strategy,” lawsuits were filed demanding that the facilities provided for black students be made equal to those available to white students, carefully stopping short of a direct challenge to Plessy. Houston predicted that the states that practiced segregation could not afford to maintain black schools that were actually equal to those reserved for whites. From 1935 to 1940, Houston successfully argued several cases using this strategy, including Murray v. Maryland, (1936) which resulted in the desegregation of the University of Maryland’s Law School and State ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the admission of a black student to the Law School at the University of Missouri (1938).

When Thurgood Marshall succeeded Houston as NAACP’s Special Counsel, he continued the Association’s legal campaign. In 1950, Marshall won cases that struck down Texas and Oklahoma laws requiring segregated graduate schools. In Sweatt v. Painter, the court ruled against a Texas attempt to circumvent Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada with a hastily established inferior law school for black students. In McLaurin v. Oklahoma, the court ruled against practices of segregation within a formerly all-white graduate school insofar as they interfered with meaningful classroom instruction and interaction with other students. In those cases, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required those states to admit black students to their graduate and professional schools.

In 1953, Thurgood Marshall and a team of NAACP LDF lawyers argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in front of the US Supreme Court.  The case combined five cases: Brown itself, Briggs v. Elliot – filed in South Carolina, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County – filed in Virginia, Gebhart v. Belton – filed in Delaware and Bolling v. Sharpe – filed in Washington DC. All were NAACP-sponsored cases being appealed from lower courts where Plessy v. Ferguson was upheld and in nearly all cases, discrimination was found to be lawful.

The plaintiffs in Brown asserted that this system of  racial segregation while masquerading as providing separate but equal treatment of both white and black Americans, instead perpetuated inferior accommodations, services, and treatment for black Americans. Racial segregation in education varied widely from the 17 states that required racial segregation to the 16 in which it was prohibited. The “doll test” research presented substantial arguments to the Supreme Court about how segregation affected black schoolchildren’s mental status.

In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children.  Drs. Clark used four dolls, identical except for color, to test children’s racial perceptions. Their subjects, children between the ages of three to seven, were asked to identify both the race of the dolls and which color doll they prefer. A majority of the children preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem. In a particularly memorable episode while Dr. Clark was conducting experiments in rural Arkansas, he asked a black child which doll was most like him. The child responded by smiling and pointing to the brown doll: “That’s a nigger. I’m a nigger.”

(Although Dr. Kenneth Clark is most famous for the “Doll Tests,” his personal achievements are equally as prestigious. He was the first African American to earn a PhD in psychology at Columbia; to hold a permanent professorship at the City College of New York; to join the New York State Board of Regents; and to serve as president of the American Psychological Association. His wife Mamie Clark was the first African-American woman and the second African-American, after Kenneth Clark, to receive a doctorate in psychology at Columbia.)

The United States and the Soviet Union were both at the height of the Cold War during this time, and U.S. officials, including Supreme Court Justices, were highly aware of the harm that segregation and racism played on America’s international image. When Justice William O. Douglas traveled to India  in 1950, the first question he was asked was, “Why does America tolerate the lynching of Negroes?” Douglas later wrote that he had learned from his travels that “the attitude of the United States toward its colored minorities is a powerful factor in our relations with India.” In December 1952, the Justice Department filed a friend of the court brief in the case. The brief was unusual in its heavy emphasis on foreign policy considerations of the Truman administration in a case ostensibly about domestic issues. Of the seven pages covering “the interest of the United States,” five focused on the way school segregation hurt the United States in the Cold War competition for the friendship and allegiance of non-white peoples in countries then gaining independence from colonial rule.  Attorney General James P. McGranery noted that

The existence of discrimination against minority groups in the United States has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries. Racial discrimination furnishes grist for the Communist propaganda mills.

The brief also quoted a letter by Secretary of State Dean Acheson lamenting that:

The United States is under constant attack in the foreign press, over the foreign radio, and in such international bodies as the United Nations because of various practices of discrimination in this country.

In spring 1953, the Court heard the case but was unable to decide the issue and asked to rehear the case in fall 1953, with special attention to whether the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibited the operation of separate public schools for whites and blacks. The Court reargued the case at the behest of Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, who used reargument as a stalling tactic, to allow the Court to gather a consensus around a Brown opinion that would outlaw segregation. The justices in support of desegregation spent much effort convincing those who initially intended to dissent to join a unanimous opinion. Although the legal effect would be same for a majority rather than unanimous decision, it was felt that dissent could be used by segregation supporters as a legitimizing counter-argument. .Chief Justice Vinson was a key stumbling block. After Vinson died in September 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice. Warren had supported the integration of Mexican-American students in California school systems. Warren convened a meeting of the justices, and presented to them the simple argument that the only reason to sustain segregation was an honest belief in the inferiority of Negroes. Warren further submitted that the Court must overrule Plessy to maintain its legitimacy as an institution of liberty, and it must do so unanimously to avoid massive Southern resistance. He began to build a unanimous opinion.

The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself, drawing on research conducted by City College of NY psychologist Kenneth Clark assisted by NAACP staffer June Shagaloff.  This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were “equal”, which under Plessy they nominally should have been, but whether the doctrine of separate was constitutional. The justices answered with a strong “no”:

[D]oes segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. …

“Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The effect is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.” …

“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone”

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The 17 Southern states requiring segregation of schools were not convinced of the legitimacy of the Court’s decision. Some states’ lower courts found it acceptable to dismiss the decision altogether. The reality was that unless the ruling was enforced, it was not sufficient.  And so the actual integration of schools became a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement for the next 15 years.

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Black History Month 2017: The Civil Rights Movement

Hello Readers,

It’s Black History Month! At my annual King Thing, I had the honor of having a woman present who had been part of the Civil Rights Movement, who had had the experience of going to jail for protesting, who had heard Dr. King speak on several occasions. And I thought – HEY! Do I really know enough about what happened? We focus on Rosa Parks and Dr. King, but there was SO much more. All across the South, and in parts of the north, people were organizing. There were lawsuits, marches, boycotts, sit-ins. Laws were changed, but the South fought back. It was only with the televising of the most heinous acts that brought the injustices to the public eye and white people began to cry out over the drastic nature of how we were mistreated, enough to push for enforcement of laws already on the books.


I wanted to start with the question – when did it start, why did it start? Most historians say that it started in 1954-1955 with the successful Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education in which “separate but equal” in public schools was struck down and the fight to integrate schools across the South began. But in fact, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund – founded by Charles Hamilton Houston in the 1930’s, and championed by Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley, an impressive lawyer who went on to be the first black woman to be named a NY State Senator, a Manhattan Borough president, and eventually a federal judge – prepared a series of court cases, inching toward the final confrontation of Brown v. Board of Education. Others say it started with Rosa Parks’ arrest for not giving up her seat for a white woman on a street bus, which got 60% of its revenue from African-Americans, and the subsequent Montgomery boycott which lasted nearly 2 years. Yet Parks was the second woman arrested, and her arrest was planned by the local NAACP chapter.  None of the events of 1954-55 happened spontaneously. We just don’t hear the backstory.

What is also said is that there was an overall discontent among African-American soldiers returning from the war, which was fought over tyranny and fascism, only to return to Jim Crow. To have the opportunity with the GI Bill to go to college, only to find meager job opportunities, well below their knowledge level. Or to see housing go up in suburbs across America, only to be denied access because of covenants designed to keep blacks out of the new housing, and stuck in overcrowded conditions in city ghettos.

So, there was a determination to fight back, to push for change, and to be willing to risk lives for it. And people definitely died. We read about Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and poor Emmett Till, but with every movement there was violent backlash, from dogs and hoses and arrests, to beatings, bombings, fires and killings.

I will be honest. Work is a bear right now, and I may not be able to put something out every day. But I am determined to try. Tomorrow, I hope to write about “the Brown strategy” and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Wish me luck!

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BHM 2015 #6 – Mozambique

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Mozambique stretches for 1,535 mi (2,470 km) along Africa’s southeast coast. It is nearly twice the size of California. Tanzania is to the north; Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west; and South Africa and Swaziland to the south. The country is generally a low-lying plateau broken up by 25 sizable rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean. The largest is the Zambezi, which provides access to central Africa.


The population of Mozambique is around 24 million people, mainly African, but a few Europeans and Indians. Over 50% of the people are Christian (Roman Catholic, Zionist or Protestant) and 17% are Muslim. The official language is Portuguese, but many other languages are spoken such as Swahili, Makhuwa and Sena. Mozambique has vast natural resources in natural gas, coal, titanium and hydroelectric capacity. Their number one trading partner is South Africa, but China and several European countries are also trading partners. The country has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with foreign investors showing interest in Mozambique’s untapped oil and gas reserves. Coal and titanium are a growing source of revenue.

Most of the population works the land, however, and infrastructure nationwide still suffers from colonial neglect, war and under-investment. Poverty is widespread, with more than 50% of Mozambicans living on less than $1 a day.






Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the west and north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. They established agricultural communities or societies based on herding cattle. They brought with them the technology for iron making, a metal which they used to make weapons for the conquest of their neighbors. Several Swahili trade ports dotted the coast of the country before the arrival of Arabs,[8] who had been trading with Madagascar and the Far East. Coastal trade of Mozambique was at first dominated by Arabs and Persians, who had established settlements as far south as Mozambique Island.


The voyage of Vasco da Gama around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 marked the Portuguese entry into trade, politics, and society of the region. The Portuguese gained control of the Island of Mozambique and the port city of Sofala in the early 16th century, and by the 1530s, small groups of Portuguese traders and prospectors seeking gold penetrated the interior regions, where they set up garrisons and trading posts at Sena and Tete on the River Zambezi and tried to gain exclusive control over the gold trade.


The Portuguese attempted to legitimise and consolidate their trade and settlement positions through the creation of prazos (land grants) tied to Portuguese settlement and administration. While prazos were originally developed to be held by Portuguese, through intermarriage they became African Portuguese or African Indian centres defended by large African slave armies known as Chikunda. Historically within Mozambique there was slavery. Human beings were bought and sold by African tribal chiefs, Arab traders and Portuguese and other European traders as well. Many Mozambican slaves were supplied by tribal chiefs who raided warring tribes and sold their captives to the prazeiros.


For a period of 400 years, Portugal controlled Mozambique. During the 19th century other European powers, particularly the British (British South Africa Company) and the French (Madagascar), became increasingly involved in the trade and politics of the region around the Portuguese East African territories.[citation needed]

By the early 20th century the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of Mozambique to large private companies, like the Mozambique Company, the Zambezia Company and the Niassa Company, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to their neighbouring colonies (South Africa and Rhodesia). Although slavery had been legally abolished in Mozambique, at the end of the 19th century the Chartered companies enacted a forced labor policy and supplied cheap – often forced – African labour to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa.


As communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread out across Africa, many clandestine political movements were established in support of Mozambican independence. The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. This conflict – along with the two others already initiated in the other Portuguese colonies of Angola and Portuguese Guinea – became part of the so-called Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974).[citation needed] From a military standpoint, the Portuguese regular army maintained control of the population centres while the guerrilla forces sought to undermine their influence in rural and tribal areas in the north and west.


After 10 years of sporadic warfare and Portugal’s return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon, which replaced Portugal’s Estado Novo regime for a military junta (the Carnation Revolution of April 1974), FRELIMO took control of the territory. Mozambique became independent from Portugal on 25 June 1975.

The new government, under president Samora Machel, established a one-party state based on Marxist principles. The new government received diplomatic and some military support from Cuba and the Soviet Union and proceeded to crack down on opposition.



Starting shortly after the independence, the country was plagued from 1977 to 1992 by a long and violent civil war between the FRELIMO regime and opposition forces of  the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). Formed in 1975, the RENAMO , an anti-communist group sponsored by the Rhodesian Intelligence Service, and the apartheid government in South Africa, launched a series of attacks on transport routes, schools and health clinics, and the country descended into civil war. In the United States, the CIA and conservatives lobbied for support to RENAMO, which was strongly resisted by the State Department, which would “not recognize or negotiate with RENAMO”.


This conflict, combined with sabotage from the neighbouring white-ruled state of Rhodesia and the apartheid regime of South Africa, ineffective policies, failed central planning, and the resulting economic collapse, characterised the first decades of Mozambican independence. This period was also marked by the exodus of Portuguese nationals and Mozambicans of Portuguese heritage,[20] a collapsed infrastructure, lack of investment in productive assets, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries as well as widespread famine.


During most of the civil war, the FRELIMO-formed central government was unable to exercise effective control outside of urban areas, many of which were cut off from the capital. It is reported that in RENAMO controlled areas, which included up to 50% of the rural areas in several provinces, health services of any kind were isolated from assistance for years. The problem worsened when the government cut back spending on health care.

The war was marked by mass human rights violations from both sides of the conflict with RENAMO contributing to the chaos through the use of terror and indiscriminate targeting of civilians. The central government executed tens of thousands of people while trying to extend its control throughout the country and sent many people to re-education camps where thousands died. An estimated one million Mozambicans perished during the civil war, 1.7 million took refuge in neighbouring states, and several million more were internally displaced. The FRELIMO regime also gave shelter and support to South African (African National Congress) and Zimbabwean (Zimbabwe African National Union) rebel movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later South Africa (at that time still under the apartheid regime) backed RENAMO in the civil war.


On 19 October 1986, Samora Machel was on his way back from an international meeting in Zambia in the presidential Tupolev Tu-134 aircraft when the plane crashed in the Lebombo Mountains, near Mbuzini. There were ten survivors, but President Machel and thirty-three others died, including ministers and officials of the Mozambique government.


Machel’s successor, Joaquim Chissano, implemented sweeping changes in the country, starting reforms such as changing from Marxism to capitalism, and began peace talks with RENAMO. The new constitution enacted in 1990 provided for a multi-party political system, market-based economy, and free elections. The civil war ended in October 1992.


Mozambique held elections in 1994, which were accepted by most parties as free and fair while still contested by many nationals and observers alike. FRELIMO won, under Joaquim Chissano, while RENAMO, led by Afonso Dhlakama, ran as the official opposition.


By mid-1995, over 1.7 million refugees who had sought asylum in neighboring countries had returned to Mozambique, part of the largest repatriation witnessed in sub-Saharan Africa. An additional four million internally displaced persons had returned to their homes.


In December 1999, Mozambique held elections for a second time since the civil war, which were again won by FRELIMO. RENAMO accused FRELIMO of fraud, and threatened to return to civil war, but backed down after taking the matter to the Supreme Court and losing.


In early 2000 a cyclone caused widespread flooding in the country, killing hundreds and devastating the already precarious infrastructure. Furthermore, in 2002 a severe drought hit many central and southern parts of the country, including previously flood-stricken areas.


Presidential and National Assembly elections took place on December 1–2, 2004. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza won with 64% of the popular vote.


The resettlement of civil war refugees and successful economic reform have led to a high growth rate: the country enjoyed a remarkable recovery, achieving an average annual rate of economic growth of 8% between 1996 and 2006 and between 6%–7% from 2006 to 2011.  The devastating floods of early 2000 slowed GDP growth to 2.1% but a full recovery was achieved in 2001 with growth of 14.8%. Rapid expansion in the future hinged on several major foreign investment projects, continued economic reform, and the revival of the agriculture, transportation, and tourism sectors. In 2013 about 80% of the population was employed in agriculture, the majority of whom were engaged in small-scale subsistence farming which still suffered from inadequate infrastructure, commercial networks, and investment. However, in 2012, more than 90% of Mozambique’s arable land was still uncultivated.


In 2013, a BBC article reported that, starting in 2009, Portuguese had been returning to Mozambique because of the growing economy in Mozambique and the poor economic situation in Portugal.


On October 21, 2013, the RENAMO opposition movement announced it was abandoning the 1992 peace treaty with the governing FRELIMO party. The opposition and government troops had been battling for about a year. RENAMO made the announcement after government troops attacked a RENAMO base where Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO’s leader, was staying. Dhlakama was forced to flee. Fernando Mazanga, a RENAMO spokesperson, said “Peace is over in the country. The responsibility lies with the FRELIMO government because they didn’t want to listen to RENAMO’s grievances.”


The day after RENAMO announced that the treaty was no longer, they attacked a police station in Maringue. There were no casualties or injuries reported. The government did not respond to the police station attack or RENAMO’s announcement. The 1992 Rome General Peace Accords ended Mozambique’s 1975-92 civil war. RENAMO’s announcement to abandon the treaty raised concerns that the conflict between the two parties would be renewed. After protracted negotiations, RENAMO and the government signed a ceasefire in August 2014.

Mozambique held its general elections on Oct. 15, 2014. The ruling party, FRELIMO, kept its majority in parliament. FRELIMO took 144 out of 250 seats while the opposition party, RENAMO, took 89 seats. FRELIMO’s candidate, Filipe Nyusi, was elected president, receiving 57.03% of the vote. Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO’s candidate, received 36.61% of the vote.


After the election, Dhlakama accused the results of being fraudulent. He threatened to set up a rival RENAMO government, but later backed down. However, RENAMO did protest the election results by boycotting the swearing in of provincial parliaments.

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BHM 2015 – #5: The Republic of Guinea

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There are here are 3 different “Guinea” countries in Africa. There are the Republic of Guinea, Guinea –Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. The Republic of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau are adjacent to each other on the coast of West Africa, and Equatorial Guinea is further South.. With that said, I’m going to focus on “The Republic of Guinea”.

Guinea  is bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Slightly smaller than Oregon, the country consists of a coastal plain, a mountainous region, a savanna interior, and a forest area in the Guinea Highlands. Three of western Africa’s major rivers—the Gambia, the Niger, and the Sénégal—rise in Guinea. The elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, lion, leopard, and many kinds of antelope and monkey are to be found in Guinea, as well as crocodiles and several species of venomous snakes. Birds are plentiful and diverse. With a population of 11 million, Guinea has 24 different ethnic groups, chief of which are the Peuhl/Fulani 40%, Malinke 30%, and Susu/Sousou 20%, each with its own language.

Guinea is a very poor country despite having the second largest bauxite reserves in the world (bauxite becomes alumina, becomes aluminum), as well as gold and diamonds. Lack of an adequate transportation network has hindered the country’s development. Infrastructure is practically non-existent.  The state-owned, single-track railroad from Conakry to Kankan was built between 1900 and 1914; this railway line is now mostly defunct, and there is no passenger railway service in the country. Of 30,500 km of roads, only 17%  were tarred in 2002. Of the 16 airstrips, 12 are unpaved . Guinea has been largely free of civil war because of the strength and violence of its military. However, its human rights record is abysmal. The country still practices female genital mutilation, has child brides and a large percentage of all women are in polygamous marriages. According to the World Health Organization, malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis are prevalent 2% of all adults have AIDS, and in 2014, hundreds were killed by the Ebola virus. According to the CIA Factbook, Guinea is a source, transit, and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; the majority of trafficking victims are Guinean children; Guinean girls are subjected to domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation, while boys are forced to beg, work as street vendors or shoe shiners, or miners; some Guinean children are forced to mine in Senegal, Mali, and possibly other West African countries; Guinean women and girls are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking in Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Senegal, Greece, and Spain, while Chinese and Vietnamese women are reportedly forced into prostitution in Guinea

In 1997, Guinea had the highest number of refugees of any West African nation. There were around 420,000 Liberians and around 250,000 from Sierra Leone in Guinea. These refugees escaped from the fighting in their respective countries.

Corruption is rampant in Guinea. “When you disembark from a plane in Conakry, the corruption hits you almost as quickly as the heat. At the airport, a uniformed officer will stop you, raising no specific objections but making it clear, with his body, that your exit from the situation will be transactional. Out on the rubble-strewn streets, which are perfumed by the garbage that clogs the city’s open sewers, the military presence is less conspicuous than in the past, but at night insouciant young soldiers position themselves at intersections, holding submachine guns; they lean into passing cars and come away with cash.”


Archaeological evidence indicates that at least some stone tools found in Guinea were the work of peoples who had come there from the Sahara, perhaps because of the desiccation that had occurred in the Saharan region by 2000 BC . Agriculture was practiced along the coast of Guinea by AD 1000, with rice the staple crop.

Beginning in 900, the Susu migrated from the north and began settling in the area. The Susu civilization reached its height in the 13th century. The Portuguese presence on the coast dates from the 15th century, when they developed a slave trade that would continue to affect Guinea until the mid-19th century. By the 17th century, French, British, and Portuguese traders and slavers were competing with one another. When the slave trade was prohibited during the first half of the 19th century, the Guinea creeks afforded secluded hiding places for slavers harried by the ships of the Royal Navy.  From the 16th to the 19th century, the Fulani empire dominated the region in Fouta Jallon. The almamy (ruler) of Fouta Djallon placed his country under French protection  in 1881. The French protectorate of Rivières du Sud was detached from Senegal as a separate colony, the protectorate was rechristened French Guinea; and finally, in 1895, it became part of French West Africa. The independent Malinke state, ruled by Samory (Sekou) Touré, resisted the French military until 1898, and isolated small groups of Africans continued to resist the French until the end of World War I (1914–18) when treaties with Liberia and Great Britain largely established the present boundaries.

Guinea came to occupy a special position among African states for its unqualified rejection of neocolonial control. French overseas territories had the option of choosing to continue their existing status, to move toward full integration into metropolitan France, or to acquire the status of an autonomous republic in the new quasi-federal French Community. If, however, they rejected the new constitution, they would become independent forthwith. French President Charles de Gaulle made it clear that a country pursuing the independent course would no longer receive French economic and financial aid or retain French technical and administrative officers. The electorate of Guinea rejected the new constitution overwhelmingly, and Guinea accordingly became an independent state on 2 October 1958, with Touré, leader of Guinea’s strongest labor union, as president.

For two decades after French withdrawal in 1958 the country was governed according to socialist-style economic management. Agriculture was collectivized and private commerce and industry repressed. . Denied French assistance, Guinea contracted loans and economic and trade agreements with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Guinea expelled the US Peace Corps in 1966 because of alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow President Touré.  When it failed to become a full economic partner in the Soviet bloc, in 1984, a major reform movement gained political power and reforms were instituted aimed at developing a modern market economy. The collective farms were abolished, state-owned enterprises were liquidated, compulsory marketing through state agencies was abolished, food prices were decontrolled. Guinea turned to France and other Western countries for capital and technical assistance. Although the reforms were largely successful, the economy has not flourished due to high levels of debt, unemployment, and underemployment.

Touré died on 26 March 1984 while undergoing cardiac treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in the US. Prime Minister Louis Lansana Béavogui then became acting president, pending elections that were to be held within 45 days. On 3 April, however, just as the Political Bureau of the ruling Guinea Democratic Party (PDG) was about to name its choice as Touré’s successor, the armed forces seized power, denouncing the last years of Touré’s rule as a “bloody and ruthless dictatorship.” The constitution was suspended, the National Assembly dissolved, and the PDG abolished. The leader of the coup, Col. Lansana Conté, assumed the presidency on 5 April, heading the Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire de Redressement National—CMRN).

Conté, was famously corrupt: he referred to his ministers, not without affection, as “thieves,” and once remarked, “If we had to shoot every Guinean who had stolen from Guinea there would be no one left to kill.”

Under pressure locally and abroad, Guinea embarked on a transition to multiparty democracy, albeit with considerable reluctance from the military-dominated government. It legalized parties in April 1992, but did not really allow them to function freely. It postponed presidential elections for over a year (until 19 December 1993) and then annulled the results from two Malinké strongholds, claiming victory with 51.7% of the vote.

The greatest threat to Conté’s power came in February 1996, when mutineers commanded tanks, fired upon the presidential palace, and seized the president. The palace was all but destroyed, and some 30 to 50 people were killed, many of them civilians by stray bullets. Conté was able to strike a deal with the mutineers, agreeing to establish a multiparty grievance committee that was disbanded before it could issue its final report. No one received a death sentence, though 38 soldiers received sentences, 34 of them colonels, majors, captains, and lieutenants. Only six were Susu, and four of them received the lightest sentences. Conté gave in to the mutineers’ demands by doubling soldiers’ pay and taking over the defense department himself.

Beginning in September 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel army, backed by Liberian President Charles Taylor, commenced large-scale attacks into Guinea from Sierra Leone and Liberia. The RUF, known for their brutal tactics in the near decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone, operated with financial and material support from the Liberian Government and its allies. After the initial attacks in September 2000, President Conté, in a radio address, accused Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees living in the country of fomenting war against the government. Soldiers, police, and civilian militia groups rounded up thousands of refugees, some of whom they beat and raped. Approximately 3,000 refugees were detained, although most were released by year’s end.

Conté remained in power until his death on 23 December 2008.  Several hours following his death, Moussa Dadis Camara seized control of Guinea as the head of a military junta.[8] On 28 September 2009, the junta ordered its soldiers to attack people who had gathered to protest any attempt by Camara to become President.[9] The soldiers went on a rampage of rape, mutilation, and murder. On 3 December 2009, an aide shot Camara during a dispute about the rampage of September 2009. Camara went to Morocco for medical care. Vice-President (and defense minister) Sékouba Konaté flew back from Lebanon to run the country in Camara’s absence. On 12 January 2010 Camara was flown from Morocco to Burkina Faso. After meeting in Ouagadougou on 13 and 14 January, Camara, Konaté and Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, produced a formal statement of twelve principles promising a return of Guinea to civilian rule within six months. It was agreed that the military would not contest the forthcoming elections, and Camara would continue his convalescence outside Guinea.[14] On 21 January 2010 the military junta appointed Jean-Marie Doré as Prime Minister of a six-month transition government, leading up to elections.

The presidential election was set to take place on 27 June and 18 July 2010, it was held as being the first free and fair election since independence in 1958. The first round took place normally on 27 June 2010 with ex Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo and his rival Alpha Condé emerging as the two runners-up for the second round. However, due to allegations of electoral fraud, the second round of the election was postponed until 19 September 2010. A delay until 10 October was announced by the electoral commission (CENI), subject to approval by Sékouba Konaté. Yet another delay until 24 October was announced in early October. Elections were finally held on 7 November. Voter turnout was high, and the elections went relatively smoothly. 16 November 2010, Alpha Condé, the leader of the opposition party Rally of the Guinean People (RGP), was officially declared the winner. He had promised to reform the security sector and review mining contracts if elected.

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