Chancellor’s Message

chancellor-KellyI am very pleased to introduce the CUNY/New York Times in College 2014  website, “Supreme Decisions,” chronicling the history of the United States Supreme Court and how its interpretations of the Constitution have reflected our politics, culture, and society. Published in the wake of landmark decisions on marriage equality and voting rights, it is a timely and welcome contribution to the history of this powerful, unelected branch of our government.

As often as not, decisions of the Supreme Court have reflected public sentiment. This is evident in two of its most famous decisions: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed Jim Crow segregation, and Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which overturned Plessy and ruled that separate school systems for blacks and whites were inherently unequal.

Between 1898 and 1954, Constitutional amendments and Supreme Court decisions did not change the Plessy ruling. What had changed for many Americans and a unanimous Supreme Court was the meaning of racial equality. Brown was the culmination of a 20-year strategy by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, led by Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall, to broaden the meaning of the Constitution, and in particular the Fourteenth Amendment, to include racial equality and equal rights before the law.

This is but one example of the calendar’s approach to the history of the Supreme Court. In other months, which feature subjects ranging from the right to privacy to worker’s rights, the calendar documents how and why the court’s interpretations have changed over time, often transforming the nation.

“Supreme Decisions” is the 10th calendar/website developed in a partnership between The City University of New York and The New York Times in College with the support of JPMorganChase, and produced by the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College. It is emblematic of CUNY’s educational mission and commitment to public service. The University takes great pride in this project and the partnerships that bring history to life.

William P. Kelly
Interim Chancellor

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