Brown v. Louisiana

LOCATION: General Petroleum Corporation

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 383 US 131 (1966)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1965
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1966

Facts of the case

The Audubon Regional library operated three branches and two bookmobiles. Blacks were not allowed to enter any of the branch libraries. The bookmobiles were segregated: a red one served only whites and a blue one served blacks. Brown was a black man who entered a library branch with four other blacks and requested a book, The Story of the Negro. The librarian informed Brown that the book was not available, but that she would request it through the state library, and he could pick it up or have it mailed to him. After the conversation, the men sat down (making no noise or disturbance) and refused to leave. They were arrested "for not leaving a public building when asked to do so by an officer."


Did the actions of the arresting officer infringe upon Brown's (and his companions') freedom of speech, assembly, and freedom to petition the Government for redress of grievances as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Brown v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1965 in Brown v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

– petitioners versus Louisiana.

Mr. Rachlin.

Carl Rachlin:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

After trial, petitioners were convicted by a judge sitting without a jury of violating La. Rev. Stat. 14-103.1, which states in substance that whoever with intend to provoke a breach of the peace or under circumstances such that a breach of the peace maybe occasioned thereby and subdivision (1) provides in substance crowds or congregates with others in or upon in a variety of different places both inside and outside public and private, including a public building and who fails to move on when ordered to do so by a police officer or any authorized person shall be guilty thereof.

The oral opinion of the court is filed on -- is referred to on pages 139 and 140 of the transcript herein.

Under normal Louisiana procedure, petitioners had applied for writs of mandamus certiorari in prohibition which writs were denied without opinion as referred to in the record below.

What were the sentences in this case Mr. Rachlin?

Carl Rachlin:

The sentence is Brown received a $150 or 90 days.

The other four petitioners received, I think it was $35 and 15 days.

Hugo L. Black:

Did you say $150 or 90 or $150 and 90?

Carl Rachlin:

Or -- and -- I thought it was $150 or 90.

Hugo L. Black:

That's what I thought you have said.

Carl Rachlin:

This Court granted certiorari on May 3, 1965 and they brought all appropriate proceedings in the court below.

The various constitutional and federal questions were raised which I hope to refer to during the course of my presentation.

On Saturday, March 7, 1964, shortly before noon, the Parish sheriff in Clinton, Louisiana, Mr. Doughty saw the petitioners, all Negroes, go past his place of office of business.

The sheriff testified that he had been expecting them all morning.

He further testified that he had heard that they, as members of the Congress of Racial Equality, were going to integrate the public library in Clinton, Louisiana.

As soon as he saw them on the street go past his place of private business and enter the library which is just a short distance from his place of business, he called the jail and directed his deputies to proceed to the library, and he himself shortly thereafter within a matter of moments went himself.

The sheriff had testified below that up until that moment, he had never observed any Negroes enter the -- this library which is part of a three Parish system involving three buildings and two bookmobiles.

Two what?

Carl Rachlin:

Two bookmobiles, mobile library systems which I will refer to in a moment.

The three branches, the Clint -- the one and which we are concerned with here was the administrative office of the three Parish library system known as the Audubon Library.

And there was a -- in addition to the administrative office, there was a library there as well as in two other communities and two bookmobiles, a red one for White persons and a blue one for Negro persons and the blue bookmobile as the testimony in the record has been -- has indicated serves and has registered all the Negroes in the parishes, the three parishes with which we are concerned.

The testimony also indicated that if a White person had come to the blue -- blue bookmobile, that is the one for Negroes, such a person was refer either to the red bookmobile, that is for Whites or to one of the branches.

The Negroes weren't, according to the testimony, were never known up to this moment to have used any of the branch libraries.

In any event, Brown and the other petitioners herein entered the library and when met and I quote from the record by just giving the testimony of the librarian, “between the tables by Mrs. Reeves, the librarian” and this was in what was term by the administrative official of the library as the adult reading room which has sometimes been in the record below, been called the lobby.

Potter Stewart:

Mrs. Reeves was alone in the room when he's (Voice Overlap)

Carl Rachlin:

At the moment she was alone, sir, yes.

Potter Stewart:

And these there were five of these people who entered the room.

Carl Rachlin:

Five persons entered the library, all Negro.