Sunday, November 13, 2016

From the Gallup Vault: 60 Years Ago, the End of "Separate but Equal"

For our look at polling, public opinion and civil rights.

- Click here for the article.

On Nov. 13, 1956, two years after the Supreme Court deemed racially separate schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court struck down an Alabama law requiring segregated seating on city buses, trains and public waiting rooms. Several months later, Gallup found 60% of Americans supporting that ruling -- including 27% support in Southern states and 70% support outside the South.

The case, known as Browder v. Gayle, grew out of a yearlong boycott of the Montgomery city bus system by local blacks, in which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a key player. That boycott followed the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks, a black woman, for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man.

Beyond the regional disagreement, approval of the court's decision in Browder was fairly broad across major U.S. subgroups, but there were gaps: 63% of Republicans nationwide agreed with it vs. 53% of Democrats. This partisan difference most likely reflects the concentration of Democrats in the South at that time. Further gaps in approval include 67% of those aged 21-29 vs. 56% of those 50 and older; 78% of those with at least some college education vs. 51% of those who never advanced beyond middle school; and 77% of blacks vs. 58% of whites.

Four years later, when Gallup asked the question again, 66% of Americans approved of the decision and 28% disapproved. While perhaps not as celebrated as Brown v. Board of Education, Browder v. Gayle was the last major blow to the "separate but equal" policies that prevailed in the South after the Civil War.

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