Justin D. Smith


Missouri has been home to many of the landmark moments in the struggle for racial equality. The Missouri Compromise saved the Union; almost four decades later, the determination that Missouri slave Dred Scott was mere property split the Union. During the Civil War that followed, more battles and skirmishes took place in Missouri than in any other state outside of Virginia and Tennessee. After the Civil War Amendments abolished slavery and guaranteed every person equal protection of the law, the United States Supreme Court allowed a Jefferson City, Missouri, inn to refuse service to blacks. The Court later relied upon this decision when creating the "separate but equal" doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson. This Plessy doctrine began to unravel when aspiring law student Lloyd Gaines won his desegregation lawsuit against the University of Missouri School of Law in 1938. Subsequent decisions in cases originating in St. Louis struck down the enforceability of racial covenants and upheld the congressional ban on housing discrimination. Because the era of court-ordered desegregation arguably began in Missouri with Lloyd Gaines, it is somewhat fitting that the era also concluded in Missouri when the Supreme Court stopped the Kansas City school desegregation program. Against this backdrop came desegregation litigation in St. Louis, which resulted in the first voluntary desegregation settlement in the country. This 1983 agreement desegregated the public schools in St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs during the following sixteen years. Desegregation ended in 1999, at last concluding the saga in St. Louis education that had continued for almost three decades. Or at least most thought the saga had concluded. Because student test scores in St. Louis consistently failed to meet state standards, in 2007 the state of Missouri unaccredited the St. Louis school district and transferred control from the St. Louis school board to a "Transitional School District." In Board of Education of the City of St. Louis v. Missouri State Board of Education, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld the constitutionality of the state's actions. This Note will examine the decision, as well as the history of education in St. Louis and the results of takeovers by Missouri and other states.

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