6/27/13

Far Reaching Impact of Gong Lum v. Rice (1927) Supreme Court Ruling

Although this landmark U. S. Supreme Court case, Gong Lum v. Rice (1927) dealt with a challenge to the exclusion of Chinese children from a white school in Mississippi, it had an impact that extended far beyond Chinese or Mississippi.

As reported in the Trenton Evening Times on Nov. 21, 1927, the high court decision had implications for policies at a school in Toms River, New Jersey. Only a few months earlier in June, the State Commissioner of Education had ordered that "colored children of the district who had been grouped in special classes at South Toms River" be readmitted to the school at Toms River. He maintained that special grouping should be imposed only on criteria other than religion, nationality, or color.

However, in the wake of the adverse outcome of the Gong Lum v. Rice case, the new School Commissioner immediately stated on Nov. 27 that the court ruling would permit local school boards "to exercise the right of segregation if they so desire."

Although this article dealt with only one instance, in all likelihood, the Supreme Court ruling for Mississippi encouraged consideration of and, in many places, implementation of restrictions on equal access to schools in many other communities.  It would not be until a quarter of a century later that the U. S. Supreme Court would finally rule against school desegregation in the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision.

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