7.3.1 Southwest (1900-1930): Mixed Progress for Civil Rights

Jim Crow in the Southwest:  The jury desegregation struggle continues

Smith v. State – Texas, 1900-1903 (58 S.W. 97, 69 S.W. 151, 77 S.W. 453); Miera v. Territory – New Mexico, 1906 (81 P. 586); Thomas v. State – Texas, 1906 (95 S.W. 1069), affirmed, 212 U.S. 278 (1909); Groce v. Territory – Arizona, 1908 (94 P. 1108)
  • The duel between Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court over placement of blacks on juries that had begun in the 1890s (see § __) continued into the early 20th century.  Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s warning in Carter that local courts must make meaningful efforts to put more blacks on juries in counties with a significant black population, many Texas courts resisted. 
  • Texas appellate courts were not happy with the Carter decision but recognized that they had to abide by it, and during the first decade after Carter was decided they repeatedly, and with increasing irritation, warned local courts they must do the same.  Smith is the most prominent example:  the Texas appeals court twice overturned a black defendant’s convictions for ___ in the face of comments from the local judge that “he thought it detrimental to the public generally, and detrimental to the colored race, to put them on juries” and a jury commissioner’s admission that he did not select blacks because he did not think “their qualifications were equal to those of the whites.”   Arizona and New Mexico courts also were occasionally accused of excluding black and Hispanic jurors, as exemplified by the Miera and Groce cases.

Jim Crow in the Southwest:  Schools and Public Accommodations

Dameron v. Bayless – Arizona, 1912 (126 P. 273); Jones v. Kehrlein – California, 1920 (194 P. 55); Piper v. Big Pine School District – California, 1924 (226 P. 926)


  • Segregation was deeply entrenched in Texas by 1900, so much so that no challenges of importance came before Texas courts during this era.  The other Southwest states continued to take a different path. 
  • In Dameron, Arizona’s supreme court upheld the new state’s school segregation law, but made clear that it would strictly enforce the “equal” element of the “separate but equal” doctrine.  The court held that a black student who was forced to travel a longer distance to school than his white neighbors and cross potentially hazardous railroad tracks to reach his school, was not receiving an equal educational opportunity.  In Piper, California’s supreme court also cast an unsympathetic eye on school segregation:  it held that a 1921 segregation law did not apply to Indian students who were not enrolled members of tribes, and emphasized that the state had a duty to provide a meaningful education to all students.
  • The California court also cabined segregation in other ways.  In Jones, it refused to allow a theater owner to circumvent the state’s accommodations law (prohibiting exclusion of blacks from theaters and other places of public activity) by including segregation as part of the contract terms in admission tickets.  Even if the patron had agreed, said the court, that was not enough to override state law.   
 File:Cortaro Farms, Pinal County, Arizona. Weighing cotton at the truck. Negro woman picker brings in her . . . - NARA - 522503.tif
Cotton picker, Pinal County, Arizona (1940) - courtesy National Archives and Records Administration and Wikimedia Commons

“It is apparent that there was an endeavor … to avoid the effect of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States and of this court ... While we … appreciate their [local courts’] disinclination to place the administration of the law, even in part, in the hands of a people assumed to be inferior to the white race, yet under the law and before the law all are equals, and in its administration no favors can be shown, nor can either the letter or spirit of the law be ignored.” – Justice __, in Smith


“There is a good deal of testimony in the record tending to show that negroes, as a general rule, were not as well qualified to sit on juries as persons of the white race, either lacking in sufficient intelligence or from a want of morals.”  - Justice __, in Thomas






“The law will not measure with a yardstick …, but it will and does require that, after children arrive at the school building, it be as good a building and as well equipped and furnished and presided over by as efficient a corps of teachers as the schools provided for the children of other races.”  - Justice __, in Dameron


“It is … contended that in purchasing the tickets with the provision permitting the management to assign him a seat Jones did so with his eyes open, and that if he did not like the conditions he need not buy.  But … the language of the ticket conferred and could confer no such right upon the mgmt to discriminate against him in violation of the rights guaranteed him … [T]he whole transaction …. was tainted from the beginning with illegality arising out of the intent of the management from the start to … discriminat[e] against him in the matter of seating accommodation solely on acct of his race.” – Justice __, in Jones