Interview with Judge Robert Carter


Judge Robert Carter:

Topeka, Kansas and Clarendon County and all of the places we took broad cases were purely by chance. We had chapters, branches, in various parts of the country. In 1950, we announced to our membership that we were going to take the cases now making a direct assault on segregation. And what we took were when the various branches had said we want you to bring a case here, and so forth, that's what we did. So we went to Clarendon County first and then Topeka, Kansas, was our second. It was the second case and then there was a case in Wilmington, Delaware, and there was a case in Virginia. All of this came about by virtue and then the two cases in Washington, by virtue of the fact that we had active branches in that area. And they were able to get the people interested in bringing a case. We did—people think that we did this as sort of a scientific analysis. That wasn't true.[overlap] When we decided to make an attack on the segregation, per se—we, I think at least some of the people on our staff, and some of us decided that we we weren't going to put all our eggs in one basket. And what we did was to make the attack on segregation per se, that you couldn't possibly be equal utilizing the Supreme Court's analysis about the intangibles that were necessary for equality, using Charles Sumner's argument about, against segregation in the Boston public schools which he argued just after the Civil War indicating that there couldn't be any equality in a segregated society. And at the same time, we argued that the separate schools were not providing equal educational opportunities in terms of various—of the defects that they had. We utilized that argument all the way when we went to the Supreme Court, when all those cases—we abandoned the physical, the physical equality business. We took the case to the Supreme Court on the thesis that the physical facilities were equal, and said nonetheless, there is unequal education. And that's how the whole argument developed. But it was a—it was an argument. It was a strategy some of us felt we should abandon it,so we wouldn't get caught in this. And others more cautious felt that we had to carry the two, the two arguments, just in the event we lost one we would we would win the other.