Today in History: US Senate Ratified the United Nations Charter

UNcharterSeventy years ago today, on July 28, 1945, the United Nations Senate ratified the United Nations Charter in an 89 to 2 vote.  It was a significant moment in United States international relations, as the Senate had declined to ratify its predecessor, the League of Nations Covenant.  Delegates from fifty countries had previously signed the treaty at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on June 25th, 1945.  The treaty would enter into force a few months later, on October 24th, after being ratified by the five permanent members of the Security Council.  Today, 193 countries are members of the United Nations.

The United Nations charter is the organization’s founding document and a symbol of global peace and international development.  It sets out the structure and organizations of each organ within the United Nations, including the General Assembly and Security Council.


South Carolina Signers

On July 4, 1776, a delegation of men called the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.  We all know some of the more famous signees.  These include names like John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.  However, there were also a number of relatively unknown signers, including four delegates from South Carolina.  So, in honor of the recent Independence Day holiday, here are your signees, South Carolina!

Thomas Heyward, Jr.Thomas_Heyward_Jr

Thomas Heyward, Jr. signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation as a representative of South Carolina.  He studied law in England, and returned to South Carolina as a judge.  He commanded a militia force during the Revolutionary War and was taken prisoner during the siege of Charleston.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.Thomas_Lynch_Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr. was born and raised in Georgetown, South Carolina.  He studied at the Indigo Society School in Georgetown until his parents sent him to Cambridge to finish his education. Lynch eventually became a company commander in the 1st South Carolina regiment in 1775 and was elected to the Continental Congress where he signed the Declaration of Independence.  Interestingly enough, in his will Lynch stipulated that heirs of his female relatives must change their surname to Lynch in order to inherit the family estate, Hopsewee, which still stands in South Carolina today.

Arthur Middleton220px-Arthur_Middleton_from_a_painting_by_Benjamin_West

Arthur Middleton was a famous South Carolina politician.  He lead the American Party, who were the key advocates of Rebellion, and was widely known to be ruthless toward British loyalists.   He was elected to succeed his father in the Continental Congress in 1776.  Middleton was also captured during the defense of Charleston.  The US Navy ship, USS Arthur Middleton, was named for him.

Edward RutledgeEdward_Rutledge

Edward Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina.  He was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.  During the American Revolution, he worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army. He was a strong proponent of colonial rights; however, he was instructed by state leaders to oppose Lee’s Resolution of independence.  This resolution would have called for the dissolution not only of ties to Britain, but also to the other colonies as well.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month.  In recognition of this, we are taking a look back at the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  The Act arose out of a Supreme Court case.

Lilly Ledbetter was an employee at the Goodyear Plant in Gadsden, Alabama.  Upon receiving an anonymous note revealing the salaries of her three male co-managers, she filed a complaint with the EEOC.  She had previously been the victim of sexual harassment at her workplace and had been told by her boss that he didn’t think a woman should be working at the plant.  Her case went to trial and the jury awarded her back-pay, as well as millions in compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination she had faced.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the jury’s verdict, arguing that the case was filed too late–despite the fact that she continued to receive discriminatory pay.  They reasoned that the company’s decision to pay her less than her male counterparts had been made years earlier.  The Supreme Court upheld the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in a 5-4 opinion, stating that employees can’t challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the original decision to pay the employee in a discriminatory fashion occurred more than 180 days earlier–even if that employee was continuing to be paid less.

The decision upset longstanding precedent under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and undermined Congress’s objectives to eliminate workplace discrimination.  In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ginsberg said pointed out that someone could still take action to fix this discriminatory treatment– “[o]nce again, the ball is in Congress’ court.”

In less than two years, Congress did just that, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  Under the act, each discriminatory paycheck resets the 180-day limit to file a claim, rather than the original decision to discriminate.  This allows employees who are unaware of discrimination initially to challenge pay discrimination when they find out about it.

To listen to the Supreme Court oral arguments or read the opinion, visit Oyez.

Celebrating African American History Month: A Look Back at South Carolina’s Legal Role in the Civil Rights Movement, Part 2

This month, we are taking a look back at some of the landmark legal cases originating out of South Carolina.  Earlier this month, we looked back at Briggs v. Elliott, one of the cases combined into what became known as Brown v. Board of Education.

Today, we are going to look at Edwards v. South Carolina.   This case arose out of an organized march to the South Carolina State House grounds by 187 African-American high school and college students on March 2, 1961.  The group assembled peacefully at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia and marched in groups of fifteen to the South Carolina State House, where they peacefully expressed their grievances regarding civil rights.  Police told them to disperse or face arrest; when they chose not to disperse, instead singing religious and patriotic songs, the protesters were arrested for and later convicted of the common law crime of breach of the peace.

The Supreme Court eventually held in an 8-1 decision that arresting and convicting the petitioners was an infringement of the petitioner’s rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition for a redress of grievances, all rights guaranteed by the Firth Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by the States.  Justice Stewart wrote that the marchers’ actions were a clear example of First Amendment rights in “their most pristine and classic form,” and that states cannot make “the peaceful expression of unpopular views” criminal.

Students can listen to the oral argument before the Supreme Court at Oyez and read the Edwards v. South Carolina opinion here.  You can also watch a video about Edwards v. South Carolina.


Image credit:  The State newspaper,

Celebrating African American History Month: A Look Back at South Carolina’s Legal Role in the Civil Rights Movement, Part 1

February is African American History Month.  A recent blog entry by the Library of Congress highlights the history behind the yearly commemoration.  The Library of Congress also has an African American History month guide.

This month seems like a good time to look back at some of the landmark legal cases that arose in South Carolina.

Did you know that five cases were combined into the case commonly known as Brown v. Board of Education?  The first case, filed in 1949 in the District Court of South Carolina, was called Briggs v. Elliott, and it came out of Summerton, South Carolina.  The case began in attempt of parents to find a bus so their children could get to school without having to walk miles.  Local school superintendent R.M. Elliott refused to give them just one bus, while white children had 33 buses at their disposal.  The named petitioners, the Briggs, and Rev. Joseph Armstrong DeLaine (pictured), who organized the petition for educational equality, were fired from their jobs, along with others who signed the petition.  DeLaine’s church was later burned and he moved to New York after surviving an attempted drive-by shooting.

The court ruled against the petitioners in a 2-1 decision, ordering schools to be equalized, but not integrated.  The dissent from Judge Waring stated that “[s]egregation is per se inequality.”  The Briggs case was appealed to the Supreme Case, only to be remanded to district court after County school officials sent a document reporting on their progress in equalizing the schools.  The District Court found that progress had been made towards equality.

In May, combined with four other cases into Brown v. Board of Education, the United States overturned racial discrimination in public schools.  Once Brown was decided, the lower court reversed itself and complied with the mandate issued by the Supreme Court in Brown.

Photo credits:
SC Digital Academy: Primary Documents and K-12 Lessons,




Legal History (Week of October 2)

Oct. 2, 1967 – First African-American Supreme Court justice sworn in

Oct. 3, 1995 – O.J. Simpson jury gives verdict

Oct. 4, 1988 – Televangelist indicted

Oct. 5, 1953 – New Supreme Court Chief Justice sworn in

Oct. 7, 1988 – Mike Tyson in divorce court

Oct. 9, 1934 – Indictment in Lindbergh kidnapping case

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 25)

Sept. 25, 1981 – First woman Supreme Court justice

Sept. 26, 1987 – Child-killer sentenced to death

Sept. 27, 1964 – Warren Commission gives verdict on Oswald

Sept. 28, 1999 – Grandparents lose out at the Supreme Court

Sept. 29, 1995 – O.J. Simpson jury gives verdict

Sept. 30, 1946 – Verdicts for Nazis at Nuremberg

Oct. 1, 1995 – Verdicts for terrorist plotters

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 18)

Sept. 18, 1850 – Congress takes a step towards the Civil War.

Sept. 19, 1934 – Arrest in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

Sept. 20, 1999 – Justice for the memory of James Byrd, Jr.

Sept. 21, 1998 – Jimmy Buffet and cheeseburgers.

Sept. 22, 1999 – Justice Department versus Big Tobacco.

Sept. 23, 1957 – Problems at Central High School.

Sept. 24, 1969 – Who are the Chicago Seven?

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 11)

Sept. 11, 2000 –  Alvin the Chipmunk goes to court.

Sept. 12, 1977 – Black South African student leader dies in police custody.

Sept. 13, 1971 – AT-TI-CA!  AT-TI-CA!

Sept. 14, 1901 – President McKinley dies from anarchy.

Sept. 15, 1935 – Dark day for German Jews.

Sept. 17, 1787 – Signatures on the U.S. Constitution.

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)

Legal History (Week of September 4)

Sept. 4, 1957 –  National Guard at the Little Rock Central High School.

Sept. 5, 1774 – Important consequence from the Boston Tea Party.

Sept. 6, 1995 – O.J. Simpson, Det. Mark Fuhrman, and the Fifth Amendment.

Sept. 7, 1977 – Watergate felon released early from prison.

Sept. 8, 1974 – Former President gets an unconditional pardon.

Sept. 9, 1957 – First significant civil rights legislation since 1875.

Sept. 10, 1963 – George Wallace loses standoff against desegregation.

Get the whole scoop at the Tidbits of Interesting Legal History page. (Post – Stacy)