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The Catholic Scare: How Anti-Catholic Prejudice Shaped Brown v. Board

32 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008  

Glenna Goldis

New York University School of Law

Date Written: January 11, 2008


This essay examines supreme court justice Hugo L. Black and his times, focusing on the evolving relationship between the Catholic Church and the legal elite. Part II introduces the compulsory public school movement of the 1920s. Part III describes Black's career prior to the Supreme Court, including his membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Contrary to what Black would later claim, politics did not require him to join the Ku Klux Klan. Part IV introduces the Roosevelt Court of the 1940s and the race and religion politics of that era. This section also analyzes Black's majority opinion in Everson, arguing that he voted with the pro-Catholic side in order to bait the dissenters into agreeing with anti-Catholic logic. Part V recounts education debates of the 1950s and shows that progressive elites routinely slurred parochial schooling as segregation. They professed the ideal of one school system for all children┬┐black and white, Protestant and Catholic. A textual analysis of three related school desegregation cases shows that Black tried to use them to advance the reincarnated compulsory public education movement. Part VI concludes that Black had a tremendous impact on law and none on society.

Keywords: supreme court, segregation, legal history, everson, brown, hugo l. black, parochial education, paul blanshard, ku klux klan, catholic church

Suggested Citation

Goldis, Glenna, The Catholic Scare: How Anti-Catholic Prejudice Shaped Brown v. Board (January 11, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Glenna Goldis (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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