Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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A Letter from Judge Lanphere
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TitleA Letter from Judge Lanphere
DescriptionA letter to the editor of the Galesburg Republican, Nov. 25, 1871, in response to a previous editorial in that paper. The letter, by Judge George C. Lanphere, takes the position that the public schools in Galesburg, Illinois should not be integrated because the school board and most of the citizens are opposed to the idea.
SubjectNewspaper editors
Subject (LCSH)Galesburg (Ill.) - Newspapers
Named PersonLanphere, George C.;
CreatorGalesburg Republican
AuthorLanphere, George C.
Time Period1870s
Date Created (original)November 25, 1871
IdentifierMicroforms Cabinets
RightsThis item is out-of-copyright.
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Date Digital2012-08-22
Mr. Editor--In your [?] of the 18th,
you are somewhat positive in regard to
the rights of colored children in our pub-
lic schools. I wish to say a word in re-
ply, and in doing so, will endeavor to
treat the subject from a practical point
of view.
You say colored children have an
equal right with white children to an ed-
ucation. I suppose you do not claim
they have greater rights. Very well,
what rights have white children in this
respect? Have they, or their parents, a
right to dictate in what school edifices
they shall be taught; what teachers they
shall have; what rooms they shall occu-
py; what hours in the day they shall re-
cite, and how they shall be instructed?
If they have, of what use are boards of
education, school directors, or school
superintendents? Somebody must con-
trol in these matters, or anarchy will
prevail. Shall it be the children and
their parents, or the persons expressly
chosen by the whole people for that pur-
It may be true, that in states adopt-
ing the free school system, every child,
whether white or black, has a right to
at least a common school education, at
the public expense, but this right is sub-
ject to any number of conditions and
limitations. There must be money to
pay teachers--teachers that can be hired
--school edifices that can be occupied,
books for the use of the pupils, etc.
These are all limitations of this right.
It is said that no distinction can be
made on account of "race, color, or pre-
vious condition of servitude." This is
true as it respects voting, and that alone.
There seems to be a very general mis-
conception in the public mind in respect
to this constitutional prohibition. It is
true, the colored people, by the 14th
amendment, are entitled to the equal
protection of the laws, and to have their
children educated at the public expense,
but the where, how and when, is not for
them to decide, any more than it is for
the parents of white children, but for
the properly constituted authorities.
You refer in support of your position
to the late amendments to the Constitu-
tion of the United States, and to our
now state constitution. Now, I make
the point that the only express prohibi-
tion of distinctions on account of "race,
color, or previous condition of servi-
tude" in these amendments, and in our
constitution, is limited to voting, and
that is contained in the 15th amendment.
If I am wrong in this, you can very
easily set me right, by pointing out and
quoting the constitutional provision.
No one will dispute the right or power
of the board of education, to separate
the girls and the boys in the schools; to
require the girls to attend one school
edifice, and the boys another; to say the
boys shall not attend school in a certain
edifice, nor the girls in another. This
would be making a distinction on ac-
count of sex. The board has an equal
right to make a distinction on the ground
of race or color, unless expressly pro-
hibited by the 13th, 14th or 15th amend-
ments, or by our state constitution and
laws. If there is such a prohibition,
you will doubtless show it.
The members of the board of educa-
tion, are vested with discretionary pow-
ers in the management of the public
schools. Of course, the exercise of that
discretion must be reasonable; but when,
as is the case at present, the exercise of
those discretionary powers are in con-
formity with the sentiments and judg-
ment of three fourths of the community,
such exercise cannot be considered un-
reasonable, nor can it be said tha tthe
board are abusing their powers.

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