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State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada


Gaines marked a turning point in the reevaluation of the "separate but equal" standard that had been the law of the land since the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896.

Lloyd Gaines was an African American resident of Missouri who sought admission to the all-white state university law school. In his quest, Gaines was assisted by the state of Missouri ("ex rel." indicates a case brought by the state on behalf of an individual) and by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which looked on his as a test case. The goal of the NAACP was to overturn the "separate but equal" standard for determining what types of segregation were legal.

Gaines had applied to the University of Missouri Law School because there was no law school for blacks in the state. When in due course his application was rejected, Gaines appealed to the state courts for an order compelling the university to admit him. Because the university said it had plans to create an in-state law school for blacks and offered to pay Gaines's tuition at another law school in the meantime, the Missouri courts upheld the decision not to accept Gaines. Gaines's attorney, Charles H. Houston, who played an important role in the NAACP's campaign to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada - Significance, Supreme Court Redefines "separate But Equal"