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America's History in the Making

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The Great Hair Debate

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CHAPTER CXXVIII

An Act to define and declare the rights of persons lately known as Slaves, and Free Persons of Color.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That all persons heretofore known as slaves, and free persons of color, shall have the right to make and enforce contracts, to sue and be sued, to inherit, purchase, lease, hold, sell, and convey real, personal and mixed estate; to make wills and testaments, and to have and enjoy the rights of personal security, liberty, and private property, and all remedies and proceedings for the protection and enforcement of the same; and there shall be no discrimination against such persons in the administration of the criminal laws of this State.

Sec 2. That all laws and parts of laws relating to persons lately held as slaves, or free persons of color, contrary to; or in conflict with the provisions of this act, be and the same are hereby repealed; Provided, nevertheless, that nothing herein shall be so construed as to repeal any law prohibiting the intermarriage of the white and black races, nor to permit any other than white men to serve on juries, hold office, or vote at any election, State, county or municipal; Provided, further, that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to allow them to testify, except in such cases and manner as is prescribed in the Constitution of the State.

Approved November 10, 1866.

El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT CHESLEY KARR (1970). Courtesy of Chesley Karr.

Creator El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post
Context The role of public schools in regulating a dress code
Audience Readers of the El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post
Purpose To show how the debate over long hair in public schools polarized a community through its local media

Historical Significance

In 1970, a high-school gym teacher in El Paso, Texas, refused to admit Chesley Karr to class because of his long hair. Karr refused to get a haircut and took the school to court. The El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post covered the "great hair debate" and served as a conduit for public opinion. Even though Karr lost his appeal to the Supreme Court, the case illuminated a divide within the community of El Paso. It also reflected the media's role in the national issue on the rights of students within the public school system. Both newspapers published editorials on the case, along with more than fifty letters from readers.

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