Strauder v. West Virginia
1. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States considered, and held to be one of a series of constitutional provisions having a common purpose, namely to secure to a recently emancipated race, which had been held in slavery through many generations, all the civil rights that the superior race enjoy, and to give to it the protection of the general government, in the enjoyment of such rights, whenever they should be denied by the States. Whether the amendment had other, and if so what, purposes not decided.
2. The amendment not only gave citizenship and the privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but denied to any State the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws, and invested Congress with power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce its provisions.
3. The amendment, although prohibitory in term, confers by necessary implication a positive immunity, or right, most valuable to persons of the colored race — the right to exemption from unfriendly legislation against them distinctively as colored — exemption from discriminations, imposed by public authority, which imply legal inferiority in civil society, lessen the security of their rights, and are steps towards reducing them to the condition of a subject race.
4. The statute of West Virginia which, in effect, singles out and denies to colored citizens the right and privilege of participating in the administration of the law as jurors because of their color, though qualified in all other respects, is, practically, a brand upon them, and a discrimination against them which is forbidden by the amendment. It denies to such citizens the equal protection of the laws, since the constitution of juries is a very essential part of the protection which the trial by jury is intended to secure. The very idea of a jury is that it is a body of men composed of the peers or equals of the person whose rights it is selected or summoned to determine; that is, of persons having the same legal status in society as that which he holds.
5. Where, as here, the State statute secures to every white man the right of trial by jury selected from, and without discrimination against, his race, and at the same time permits or requires such discrimination against the colored man because of his race, the latter is not equally protected by law with the former.
6. Sect. 41 of the Revised Statutes, which declares that,
- when any civil suit or criminal prosecution is commenced in any State court, for any cause whatsoever, against any person who is denied or cannot enforce in the judicial tribunals of the State, or in the part of the State where such suit or prosecution is pending, any right secured to him by any law providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, . . . such suit or prosecution may, upon the petition of such defendant, filed in said State court, at any time before the trial or final hearing of the cause, stating the facts and verified by oath, be removed, for trial, into the next circuit court to be held in the district where it is pending,
considered and held not to be in conflict with the Constitution of the United States. [p304]
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.