ERIC Number: ED254886
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Feb-17
Reference Count: 0
The Supreme Court and Images of Equality: A Comparison of "Plessy V. Ferguson" and "Brown V. Board of Education."
Brydon, Steven R.
Using Chaim Perelman's concept of the "universal audience" as a method of analysis, an investigation was made into the images of equality under the law in two landmark Supreme Court rulings on segregation, "Plessy v. Ferguson" and "Brown v. Board of Education." The analysis revealed that the Supreme Court in both decisions relied heavily on its image of social reality in deriving axioms representing the universal audience at a given historical moment. The concept of equality was the central term requiring definition. While the "Plessy" Court assumed the inferiority of blacks, the "Brown" Court assumed the equality of races. "Plessy" reflected an empirical definition of equality; if both races were treated the same, that was all the law could command. "Brown" reflected a less tangible view of equality; physical equality of facilities was not enough. The remaking of the concept of equality in correspondence with the tenets of the universal audience of its day, was the hallmark of the "Brown" decision. Thus, from the perspective of universal audience, the "Brown" decision appealed to a universal audience of greater wisdom than that of "Plessy." The analysis suggests that legal precedent and legislative history are less significant than the Court's image of reality in framing its opinions. (HOD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Brown v Board of Education; Equality (Concept); Perelman (Chaim); Plessy v Ferguson; Supreme Court
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western Speech Communication Association (Fresno, CA, February 16-19, 1985).