Resource: Indigo Williams, et. al. v. Phil Bryant et. al.

By: Southern Poverty Law Center

December 7, 2020

Southern Poverty Law Center

Mississippi has repeatedly violated a nearly 150-year-old, legally binding obligation to operate a “uniform system of free public schools” for all children, an obligation placed on the state as a condition of rejoining the Union after the Civil War. Mississippi enshrined this requirement in the education clause of its constitution, which the state ratified in 1869. The following year, Congress passed a law, commonly called the “Readmission Act,” allowing Mississippi to regain full statehood. The Readmission Act requires that the education rights than granted in the state constitution never be diminished. Over more than a century, however, state lawmakers have diluted the education clause multiple times. The violations began in 1890, at the start of the Jim Crow era, when delegates to the state’s Constitutional Convention crafted new governing documents with the explicit intention of disenfranchising African Americans by withholding education. Each subsequent change has further watered down the education clause. Today, because of this historical malfeasance, the state’s public schools are anything but “uniform.”