Forest Trail Academy Fourteenth Amendment and Dissent Essay


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Dissent Essay

After watching Video #4, complete the following assignment.


Throughout the history of the Supreme
Court (in fact, throughout U.S. history generally), dissent has played
an important role. Dissenting opinions are important because the reasons
and arguments they express may become the basis of future majority
opinions. People who have not agreed with a Court’s decision in a case
have often read the written dissent to get clues about what might
persuade the Court to overturn a decision in the future. By their
nature, dissents tend to be very eloquent and persuasive written speech.

Justice John Marshall Harlan is known as
one of the greatest and most courageous dissenters. In addition to his
lone dissent in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, Harlan was also the sole
dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In his dissent in Plessy he
declared, “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor
tolerates classes among citizens.” Harlan’s dissents in the civil rights
cases of the 1880s were even quoted in the majority opinions of the
civil rights cases of the 1950s, when much of the rest of the country
began to share his views that separate public facilities cannot be

Think about the video segment you saw
about Harlan’s dissent in the Civil Rights Cases and write a three- or
four-paragraph essay that addresses each of the following questions:

  • How do you think Harlan’s position as a Southerner affected his views about Reconstruction and about the Civil Rights Cases?
  • Why do you think Harlan seemed paralyzed when he began to draft his dissent?
  • It
    took courage for Justice Harlan to be the lone dissenter in the Civil
    Rights Cases. Where do you think Justice Harlan found the courage?

Journal Entry:

Write a two- or three-paragraph journal entry that addresses the following questions:

  • Have you ever voiced an opinion and found that you are the only person who feels that way?
  • What does it feel like to be the only person with a certain opinion?

Sources you need to revise:…

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