Soles conference to focus on school desegregation

Photos by iStock and courtesy of the Delaware Supreme Court

In his landmark Brown v. Board of Education In 1954, ruling that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional, the United States Supreme Court reviewed lower court decisions in five communities, including New Castle County, Delaware, which had been combined in the Brown case. .

In four of those communities, judges had supported the idea that “separate but equal” schools for black and white children were allowed. But in the Delaware case, Chancellor Collins J. Seitz of the Court of Chancery had decided otherwise.

“The point is that the state in this situation discriminates against black children,” he wrote in his landmark 1952 ruling. His work was cited several times by the Supreme Court when ruling in the unanimously two years later in Brown.

When Judge Seitz died in 1998, newspapers across the country remembered him for his principled position, with some calling him the state’s foremost jurist and the sole judge in the federal desegregation case ” who did it right ”.

By explaining its role in the Brown In that case, The New York Times wrote: “Alone among the consolidated prosecutions, Judge Seitz’s ruling directly confronted the doctrine underlying racial segregation in schools, an issue that the other judges had addressed with more than circumspection.

Tackling racial segregation in 1952 was nothing new for Judge Seitz, a native of Wilmington and a graduate of the University of Delaware in 1937, who two years earlier had ordered the UD to admit for the first time for African-American students. As in the last case, he found that the separate schools open to black students were lower than those for whites.

Now, an audience will be able to hear the judge’s son, Delaware Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr., discuss some of the history of desegregation in the state, the Brown the case and groundbreaking decisions of his father, at the 2021 James R. Soles Conference on Constitution and Citizenship.

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