The effect of a supreme court opinion outside the judicial system : an analysis of Brown v. Board of Education and the American South
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This dissertation seeks to describe and explain the connection between The Supreme Court and politics outside of the judicial system. It is a case study of the reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education integration decision in the American South. I apply a theoretical model of “judicialization,” arguing that when courts affect politics outside of the judicial system, they reshape politics to resemble the adversarial legal system, sparking polarized conflict and causing non-judicial political actors to make arguments in the form of constitutional doctrine. Analyzing editorials and letters to the editor from Southern newspapers, I show that debate after Brown was characterized by appeals to constitutional principles, and that Brown increased the salience of segregation in schools as a subject of political debate. I also supplement my Southern newspaper data with data from African-American newspapers and analyze Southern elections in the periods immediately before and after the education integration decision to assess the impact of the Court’s education decision on both voters and candidates.