175 U.S. 528 (1899), 184, Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education

Docket Nº:No. 184
Citation:175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 44 L.Ed. 262
Party Name:Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education
Case Date:December 18, 1899
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 528

175 U.S. 528 (1899)

20 S.Ct. 197, 44 L.Ed. 262

Cumming

v.

Richmond County Board of Education

No. 184

United States Supreme Court

December 18, 1899

Argued October 80, 1899

ERROR TO THE SUPERIOR COURT

OF RICHMOND COUNTY, GEORGIA

Syllabus

The plaintiffs in error complained that the Board of Education used the funds in its hands to assist in maintaining a highschool for white children, without providing a similar school for colored children. The substantial relief asked for was an injunction. The state court did not deem the action of the Board of Education in suspending temporarily and for economic reasons the highschool for colored children a sufficient reason why the defendant should be restrained by injunction from maintaining an existing highschool for white children. It rejected the suggestion that the Board proceeded in bad faith or had abused the discretion with which it was invested by the statute under which it proceeded, or had

Page 529

acted in hostility to the colored race. Held that, under the circumstances disclosed, this Court could not say that this action of the state court was, within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, a denial by the state to the plaintiff's and to those associated with them, of the equal protection of the laws, or of any privileges belonging to them as citizens, of the United States.

While all admit that the benefits and burdens of public taxation must be shared by citizens without discrimination against any class on account of their race, the education of the people in schools maintained by state taxation is a matter belonging to the respective states, and any interference on the part of federal authority with the management of such schools cannot be justified except in the case of a clear and unmistakable disregard of rights secured by the supreme law of the land.

The plaintiffs in error, Cumming, Harper, and Ladeveze, citizens of Georgia and persons of color, suing on behalf of themselves and all others in like case joining with them, brought this action against the Board of Education of Richmond County and Charles S. Bohler, tax collector.

In the petition filed by them it was alleged --

That the plaintiffs were residents, property owners, and taxpayers of Richmond County, the defendant board being a corporation created under an act of the General Assembly of Georgia of August 23, 1872, regulating public instruction in that county empowering the board to annually levy such tax as it deemed necessary for public school purposes;

That on the 10th of July, 1897, the board levied for that year for the support of primary, intermediate, grammar, and highschools in the county, a tax of $45,000, which was then due and being collected;

That the petitioners interposed no objections to so much of the tax as was for primary, intermediate, and grammar schools, but the tax for the support of the system of highschools was illegal and void for the reason that that system was for the and benefit of the white population exclusively;

That the board was not authorized by law to levy any tax for the support of a system of highschools in which the colored school population of the county were not given the same educational facilities as were furnished the white school population;

That at least $4,500 of the tax of $45,000 was being collected,

Page 530

and when collected would be used, for the support of such system of highschools:

That the board had on hand the sum of $20,000 or other large sum, the proceeds of prior tax levies, in trust to disburse solely for legal educational purposes in the county, and would receive from the tax levy of 1897 and from other sources large sums in like trust, and that it was the owner and had the custody and control of school fixtures, furniture, educational equipments and appliances generally, holding the same in like trust; and,

That although the board was not authorized by law to use any part of such funds or property for the support and maintenance of a system of highschools in which the colored school population were not given the same educational facilities as were furnished for the white school population, it was using such funds and property in the support and maintenance of its existing highschool system, the educational advantages of which were restricted wholly to the benefit of the white school population of Richmond County to the entire exclusion of the colored school population, and that, by such use of those funds and property, a deficiency for educational purposes would inevitably result, to make which good additional taxation would be required.

The petitioners also alleged that they were persons of color and parents of children of school age lawfully entitled to the full benefit of any system of highschools organized or maintained by the board; that up to the time of the said tax levy and for many years continuously prior thereto, the board maintained a system of highschools in Richmond County in which the colored school population had the same educational advantages as the white school population, but on July 10th, 1897, it withdrew from and denied to the colored school population any participation in the educational facilities of a highschool system in the county, and had voted to continue to deny to that population any admission to or participation in such educational facilities, and that, at the time of such withdrawal and denial, the petitioners respectively had children attending the colored highschool then existing, but who were

Page 531

now debarred from participation in the benefits of a public highschool education though petitioners were being taxed therefor. They averred that the action of the board of education was a denial of the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution of the United States, and that it was inequitable, illegal, and unconstitutional for the board to levy upon or for the tax collector to collect [20 S.Ct. 198] from them any tax for the educational purposes of the county from the benefits of which the petitioners in the persons of their children of school age were excluded and debarred.

The petitioners prayed that the tax collector, Bohler, be enjoined from collecting so much of the tax levy of July 10th, 1897, as had been levied for the support of said system of highschools; that the board be enjoined from using any funds or property then held by it or thereafter to come into its hands for educational purposes in the county for the support, maintenance, or operation of that system, and that they have such other and further relief as was equitable and just.

The board of education demurred to the petition and also filed an answer. It denied that it had established any system of highschools in the county, and averred that it was neither its duty nor had it authority to establish such a system, although it had authority in its discretion to establish highschools at such points in the county as the interest or convenience of the people required; that in pursuance of such authority, it had established the Neely High School in 1876, but in 1878 its name was changed to that of the Tubman High School, when Mrs. Emily H. Tubman presented to the board a large lot and building for the purpose of affording a higher education to the young women of the county, the Richmond Academy affording this benefit and advantage to the male sex; that the demand was urgent for the continuance of the Tubman school by the board, and it was so accordingly determined, each pupil paying $15 for tuition per annum and nonresidents of the county forty dollars, which was the charge made by the Richmond Academy for Boys, and that the property, the value of which with the fixtures, furniture, and appliances was worth not less than $30,000, was

Page 532

donated by Mrs. Tubman upon the express condition that in the event the board failed to use the building for a highschool, the same was to inure instantly to the benefit of the Richmond Academy and the Augusta Free School;

That in June, 1876, the board deemed it wise to give its assistance to the Hephzibah High School, conducted and controlled by the Hephzibah Baptist Association in the village of Hephzibah, in the southeastern part of the county, charging and receiving for highschool scholars the sum of fifteen dollars per annum;

That, in 1880, there being no highschool in the county for the colored race, the funds of the board justifying it, and other schools of lower grade having been established by the local trustees in Augusta sufficient to accommodate the colored children, the board deemed it wise and proper to establish the Ware High...

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81 practice notes
  • 250 F.Supp. 1000 (E.D.N.Y. 1966), 65-C-1170, Olson v. Board of Ed. of Union Free School Dist. No. 12, Malverne, New York
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Eastern District of New York
    • 11 Febrero 1966
    ...v. State of Maryland, 1961, 366 U.S. 420, 425-426, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 1105, 6 L.Ed.2d 393. [41] Cumming v. County Board of Education, 1899, 175 U.S. 528, 545, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262. [42] See, e.g., Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Oklahoma Retail Grocers Ass'n, 1959, 360 U.S. 334, 79 S.Ct. 119......
  • 64 F.Supp. 544 (S.D.Cal. 1946), C. A. 4292, Mendez v. Westminister School Dist. of Orange County
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 9th Circuit Southern District of California
    • 18 Febrero 1946
    ...decision. While education is a State matter, it is not so absolutely or exclusively. Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262. In the Cumming decision the Supreme Court said: 'That education of the people in schools maintained by state ......
  • 182 A. 590 (Md. 1936), 53, Pearson v. Murray
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 15 Enero 1936
    ...find the remedy to be that of ordering a separate school for negroes. In the case of Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262, cited by the appellant, the question was whether a board with authority to establish separate schools, but wi......
  • 644 F.2d 397 (5th Cir. 1981), 79-3074, Debra P. v. Turlington
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 4 Mayo 1981
    ...freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the United States Constitution. In 1899, for example, in the case of Cumming v. Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 44 L.Ed. 262, the Court upheld the decision of a local board to close a black school while keeping a white school open. Findi......
  • Free signup to view additional results
61 cases
  • 250 F.Supp. 1000 (E.D.N.Y. 1966), 65-C-1170, Olson v. Board of Ed. of Union Free School Dist. No. 12, Malverne, New York
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Eastern District of New York
    • 11 Febrero 1966
    ...v. State of Maryland, 1961, 366 U.S. 420, 425-426, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 1105, 6 L.Ed.2d 393. [41] Cumming v. County Board of Education, 1899, 175 U.S. 528, 545, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262. [42] See, e.g., Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Oklahoma Retail Grocers Ass'n, 1959, 360 U.S. 334, 79 S.Ct. 119......
  • 64 F.Supp. 544 (S.D.Cal. 1946), C. A. 4292, Mendez v. Westminister School Dist. of Orange County
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 9th Circuit Southern District of California
    • 18 Febrero 1946
    ...decision. While education is a State matter, it is not so absolutely or exclusively. Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262. In the Cumming decision the Supreme Court said: 'That education of the people in schools maintained by state ......
  • 182 A. 590 (Md. 1936), 53, Pearson v. Murray
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 15 Enero 1936
    ...find the remedy to be that of ordering a separate school for negroes. In the case of Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 201, 44 L.Ed. 262, cited by the appellant, the question was whether a board with authority to establish separate schools, but wi......
  • 644 F.2d 397 (5th Cir. 1981), 79-3074, Debra P. v. Turlington
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • 4 Mayo 1981
    ...freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the United States Constitution. In 1899, for example, in the case of Cumming v. Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528, 20 S.Ct. 197, 44 L.Ed. 262, the Court upheld the decision of a local board to close a black school while keeping a white school open. Findi......
  • Free signup to view additional results
18 books & journal articles
  • "A nation of minorities": race, ethnicity, and reactionary colorblindness.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 59 Nbr. 4, February 2007
    • 1 Febrero 2007
    ...(offering definitions of social, civil, and political rights in Reconstruction jurisprudence). (23.) Cumming v. County Bd. of Educ., 175 U.S. 528, 545 (1899); see Earl M. Maltz, Only Partially Color-Blind: John Marshall Harlan's View of Race and the Constitution, 12 GA. ST. U. L. REV. 973, ......
  • Schooling at Risk
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review Nbr. 103-3, March 2018
    • 1 Marzo 2018
    ...often located in basements or boiler rooms.”72Additionally, students with disabilities were 66. Cumming v. Richmond Cty. Bd. of Educ., 175 U.S. 528, 544 (1899) (upholding a local school board’s decision to close a Black public high school for financial reasons, despite the fact that the whi......
  • When equality leaves everyone worse off: the problem of leveling down in equality law.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 46 Nbr. 2, November 2004
    • 1 Noviembre 2004
    ...resources from leveling down would not be put to better use, thereby effecting a net increase in the overall level of well-being. (85.) 175 U.S. 528 (1899). (86.) 347 U.S. 483 (1954). The Court in Cumming dodged the issue of whether the county's racial segregation of schools itself violated......
  • Toward a future, wiser court: a blueprint for overturning District of Columbia v. Heller.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 39 Nbr. 5, October 2012
    • 1 Octubre 2012
    ...bakers' working hours, finding that it was not necessary to protect the health of workers); Cumming v. Richmond Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 175 U.S. 528 (1899) (extending "separate, but equal" to public schools); United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895) (stating that Congress'......
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