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Palmer v. Thompson

Citation. 403 U.S. 217, 91 S. Ct. 1940, 29 L. Ed. 2d 438, 1971 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Jackson, Mississippi operated public swimming pools, but kept them segregated until it eventually closed or sold them all.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

An official governmental action that denies access to public facilities to all citizens does not violate the Equal Protections Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution).


The city maintained segregated swimming pools while it desegregated the zoo, public golf courses and parks. The city decided to close all pools instead of desegregating them. Some of the black citizens then filed suit to force the city to reopen the pools as desegregated facilities.


Is this closing of swimming pools state action that denies Equal Protection to the black citizens in the community?


No. A city may choose to close pools for any reason. The Supreme Court of the United States (Constitution) has never held an act unconstitutional solely because of the motivations of the men who voted for it.


A state may not avoid integration by eliminating all of its public services such as school, parks or pools. It may not close facilities for the purpose of “perpetuating or installing apartheid.”


The decision to close the pools affected all citizens equally and though it may have been racially motivated, no one group was more disadvantaged than another as a result.

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