275 U.S. 78 (1927), 29, Gong Lum v. Rice

Docket Nº:No. 29
Citation:275 U.S. 78, 48 S.Ct. 91, 72 L.Ed. 172
Party Name:Gong Lum v. Rice
Case Date:November 21, 1927
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 78

275 U.S. 78 (1927)

48 S.Ct. 91, 72 L.Ed. 172

Gong Lum



No. 29

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 21, 1927

Submitted October 12, 1927




A child of Chinese blood, born in and a citizen of the United States, is not denied the equal protection of the law by being classed by the state among the colored races who are assigned to public schools separate from those provided for the whites when equal facilities for education are afforded to both classes. P. 85.

139 Miss. 760 affirmed.

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Mississippi reversing a judgment awarding the writ of mandamus. The writ was applied for in the interest of Martha Lum, a child of Chinese blood, born in the United States, and was directed to the trustees of a high school district and the state Superintendent of Education, commanding them to cease discriminating against her and to admit her to the privileges of the high school specified, which was assigned to white children exclusively.

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TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was a petition for mandamus filed in the state circuit court of Mississippi for the First judicial district of Bolivar County.

Gong Lum is a resident of Mississippi, resides in the Rosedale Consolidated High School District, and is the father of Martha Lum. He is engaged in the mercantile business. Neither he nor she was connected with the consular service, or any other service, of the government of China, or any other government at the time of her birth.

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She was nine years old when the petition was filed, having been born January 21, 1915, and she sued by her next friend, Chew How, who is a native-born citizen of the United States and the State of Mississippi. The petition alleged that she was of good moral character, between the ages of 5 and 21 years, and that, as she was such a citizen and an educable child, it became her father's duty under the law to send her to school; that she desired to attend the Rosedale Consolidated High School; that, at the opening of the school, she appeared as a pupil, but at the noon recess she was notified by the superintendent that she would not be allowed to return to the school; that an order had been issued by the board of trustees, who are made defendants, excluding her from attending the school solely on the ground that she was of Chinese descent, and not a member of the white or Caucasian race, and that their order had been made in pursuance to instructions from the State Superintendent of Education of Mississippi, who is also made a defendant.

The petitioners further show that there is no school maintained in the district for the education of children of Chinese descent, and none established in Bolivar County where she could attend.

The Constitution of Mississippi requires that there shall be a county common school fund, made up of poll taxes from the various counties, to be retained in the counties where the same is collected, and a state common school fund to be taken from the general fund in the state treasury, which together shall be sufficient to maintain a common school for a [48 S.Ct. 92] term of four months in each scholastic year, but that any county or separate school district may levy an additional tax to maintain schools for a longer time than a term of four months, and that the said common school fund shall be distributed among the several counties and separate school districts in proportion to the number of educable children in each, to be collected

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from the data in the office of the State Superintendent of Education in the manner prescribed by law; that the legislature encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement by the establishment of a uniform system of free public schools by taxation or otherwise, for all children between the ages of 5 and 21 years, and. as soon as practicable, establish schools of higher grade.

The petition alleged that, in obedience to this mandate of the constitution, the legislature has provided for the establishment and for the payment of the expenses of the Rosedale Consolidated High School, and that the plaintiff, Gong Lum, the petitioner's father, is a taxpayer and helps to support and maintain the school; that Martha Lum is an educable child, is entitled to attend the school as a pupil, and that this is the only school conducted in the district available for her as a pupil; that the right to attend it is a valuable right; that she is not a member of the colored race, nor is she of mixed blood, but that she is pure Chinese; that she is, by the action of the board of trustees and the state superintendent, discriminated against directly, and denied her right to be a member of the Rosedale school; that the school authorities have no discretion under the law as to her admission as a pupil in the school, but that they continue without authority of law to deny her the right to attend it as a pupil. For these reasons, the writ of mandamus is prayed for against the defendants, commanding them and each of them to desist from discriminating against her on account of her race or ancestry, and to give her the same rights and privileges that other educable children between the ages of 5 and 21 are granted in the Rosedale Consolidated High School.

The petition was demurred to by the defendants on the ground, among others, that the bill showed on its face that plaintiff is a member of the Mongolian or yellow race, and

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therefore not entitled to attend the schools provided by law in the State of Mississippi for children of the white or Caucasian race.

The trial court overruled the demurrer and ordered that a writ of mandamus issue to the defendants as prayed in the petition.


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