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How Did Equal Rights For African Americans Start?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2019 | Employment Discrimination, Race Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Race Discrimination Attorney Answer: How did equal protection for African Americans start in the United States? How far rights extend for Black employees today? What kind of attorney do I need to work if I’m discriminated against at work because of my race?

February is Black History Month in the United States. What better time is there, to reflect on civil rights history in America and the different protections that exist today, than Black History Month? At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, civil rights and the complex space it occupies in U.S. history is a common topic of conversation in the office between our employment discrimination attorneys. Our lawyers are passionate about civil rights and fighting for justice for everyone, regardless of their race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, age, disability. Naturally, the evolution of civil rights for African Americans in particular, and the injustices they, as a group, still face in society, comes up a lot.

Black History Month is so important to us, at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, because if it weren’t for the trail blazers of the Civil Rights Movement, our attorneys wouldn’t be able to put their passion into practice every day.

Even though we, as a nation, still have a long way to go to achieve true equality for all, there are some particularly amazing accomplishments that have been made thus far. There are many, many important historical events and cases that lead us, as a nation, to a more perfect union. However, for the purposes of this blog, our race discrimination lawyers will discuss our favorite events, historical figures, and cases. To truly appreciate how far we’ve come as a nation and legal society, it’s important to go all the way back to 1857.

One of the first cases that a new law student covers in law school is a case called Dred Scott v. Sanford. During a discussion with one the firm’s law clerks, I was reminded how shocking this case truly is. Dred Scott was a slave who was purchased by a doctor. Dred was incredibly intelligent and trustworthy. He quickly proved that he was an extraordinary worker and could handle challenging assignments. His master trusted Dred enough to re-locate Dred from Louisiana to Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin, Dred hired himself out, lived alone, sent portions of his earnings back to his master in Louisiana, and pretty much functioned and lived like a free man. Dred saved for years and eventually tried to buy his family’s freedom. When he was refused, Dred sued in 1857. Dred, predictably, lost his case. The Supreme Court, at the time, explained that they could not even hear the case because Dred was not a “person.” Instead, Dred was considered property, and property can’t sue. Let me say that again, Dred, a person standing before the Court, asking for his freedom, was told the Court couldn’t even hear his case because he was property. The thought of living in a world like this makes me shudder. Just over 150 years ago – a mere four or five generations – the United States compared a black man to a chair, a watch, or any other simple piece of property.

In 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave African Americans equal protection under the law. In other words, slaves were now citizens of the United States of America. Just two years later, in 1870, the 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote. So, within two years, Black men went from being property to being able to vote.

Fast forward to 1896, and the Supreme Court gave us the landmark case, Plessy v. Ferguson. This is the case that gave us the ever-so-brilliant “Separate but Equal.” Separate but Equal meant that as long a Black Americans got a similar school or bathroom, they could be segregated and the white folk would not have to sit next to them. Unfortunately, this was the precedent across the country for over 50 years. However, some of the best legal research and most persuasive legal writing ever created was a product of the NAACP’s effort to overturn Plessy. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, kicked in the door, for justice. The U.S Supreme Court, for the first time ever, recognized that the “Separate but Equal” doctrine had no place in schools. This monumental case allowed civil rights activists every where to start chipping away at the foundation of segregation.

One of my favorite stories in history is that of Rosa Parks, whose story I often tell the jury about during opening or closing arguments of race discrimination cases. Although that day on the bus didn’t result in a court case, it’s one of the most prolific events in history. It’s pretty safe to say that almost every American knows who Rosa Parks is. It’s impossible to talk about the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and leave her name out of it. However, the discussion around Rosa often leaves out her incredible leadership. Rosa said, “I was just trying to let them know how I felt about being treated as a human being … I was a person with dignity and self-respect, and I should not set my sights lower than anybody else just because I was black.” At the time, Rosa had told everyone that she was tired from a long day at work, and although she had given up her seat before, this time she just said no. Some historians teach this event as if it was a random event, but her decision to sit down on the bus that day wasn’t random, or sporadic, it was planned, calculated and intentional. Rosa, along with Martin Luther King Jr., and others planned Rosa’s quiet bus protest for months before it was put into action. Rosa shouldered that burden with pride. “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

The next major milestone came in 1964. The Supreme Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This brings us to many of our modern-day laws that still protect Americans today—Title VII.

As our employment discrimination attorneys have previously blogged about, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of their race. (See: Can I Be Fired For Reporting Racial Discrimination?; Can I Sue My Co-Worker For Discrimination?; What Can I Do About Racist Customers?; How Do I Prove Race Discrimination Against My Boss?). Specifically, Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire or fire anyone because of their race, color, religion, gender/sex, or national origin, or to limit or segregate the employee from opportunities because of the aforementioned categories of individuals.

Over the course of our history, the United States as a country, has made leaps and bounds towards a truly equal society. It’s important to consider where we started to measure how far we’ve come. Of course there is still much work to be done, and our employment discrimination lawyers are here to fight the good fight. One of the reasons our employees’ attorneys are so good at what they do is because their passion for justice is unmatched. If you think you’ve been discriminated against, please contact an Ohio attorney.

We often get the question, why Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm? There are lots and lots of attorneys out there, who do just about everything. That’s not the case for us. We are discrimination nerds of sorts. This is one of my fellow employment law lawyers’ and my favorite topics of discussion. Our attorneys have a profound desire to right the wrongs of history that still effect minorities and other marginalized groups, today.

Put in another way, suppose a patient had severe pain in her shoulder. As a diligent consumer, she looks up different doctors she may consult. First, she finds a general practicing doctor, who does occasional minor surgeries. She’s a jack-of-all-trades but doesn’t specialize in any particular area. The patient could see this doctor, but there’s a chance he may miss something, or her recovery could take longer than it needs to. Next, she finds a doctor who only does shoulder surgeries. Likewise, we are not jack of all trade attorneys. We are one of the largest employee-only employment law firms in the United States and growing. Our attorneys are passionate about justice, and work to master their trade every day. We can think of no better way to celebrate Black History Month than by honoring the trail blazers before us and protecting the rights of all our clients!

As Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, then call the right attorney. Race discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation, you will meet with a race discrimination lawyer from Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm who will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims. Call our office at 866-797-6040.


The materials available at the top of this race discrimination page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking: “What should I do if my boss is a racist?”; “I’m being discriminated against because I’m black,” “my manager makes racist jokes,” or “How do I find a race discrimination lawyer in Ohio,” your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to race discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

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