Plessy v. Ferguson

Plessy v. Ferguson was a US Supreme Court case passed in 1896. It created segregation of races in public locations. This ruling remained in effect until 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education allowed children to be integrated back into the same schools again.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

How do you cite Plessy v Ferguson for a research paper?

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First cite: Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 539 (1896).

Subsequent citations: Plessy, 163 U.S. at 539.

Citation dissected

Plessy v. Ferguson, [short case title or caption]

163 U.S. [volume of US Reports where opinion may be found]

537, [Page in Volume 163 on which the opinion begins]

539 [specific page being referenced (example)]

(1896). [year case was decided]

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the US Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson?

The Supreme Court decided "separate but equal" (i.e.,segregation) was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, as long as the facilities or accommodations were equal.

More Information

In Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law, The Separate Car Act of 1890 (Act 111), requiring African-Americans and Caucasians to travel in separate railroad cars was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, as long as the accommodations provided for the African-Americans were equal to those provided for Whites.

This validated the "separate but equal" doctrine whites used to avoid accepting African-Americans as peers, and allowed the proliferation of Jim Crow laws throughout the South. The decision validated segregation as legal.

The ruling appeared to contradict a recent decision prohibiting segregation on trains traveling across state lines. In the earlier case, the Court invoked Congress' authority to regulate commerce between the states under the Constitution's Interstate Commerce Clause, not the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. In Plessy, the Court upheld the Louisiana state courts' ruling by a vote of 7-1 (Justice Brewer took no part in the case; Justice John Marshall Harlan dissented).

The precedent in Plessy v. Ferguson held until explicitly overturned by the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, (1954)

Case Citation:

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)
it legalized the public segregation of blacks and whites

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the significance of the Plessy vs. Ferguson?

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), was the landmark US Supreme Court case that legalized discrimination against African-Americans and gave credence to the "separate but equal" doctrine. Plessy, and the Jim Crow laws that flourished in the South due to the Supreme Court legitimizing segregation, were not formally discredited until 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, (1954). Even then, the federal government did little to dismantle segregation and other discriminatory laws until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The battle for equal treatment under the law has been long, and is still ongoing.

In order to understand the case better, it is helpful to consider it in terms of the historical and social context of the times.


Reconstruction

Following the defeat of the Confederate Army and emancipation of the slaves at the end of the Civil War, the United States government left Union troops encamped in the South to assist with the transition from slavery to freedom. The states ratified the 13th (1865), 14th (1868) and 15th (1870) Amendments during this era, which, together with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (which overturned southern "Black Codes), ended slavery, extended equal rights and protections to African-Americans, and granted African-American males the right to vote.

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 elaborated on the 1866 Act by providing that "all persons, regardless of race, color or previous condition, [was] entitled to full and equal employment of accommodation in inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement."

The Southern states were reluctant to obey these new mandates, so the federal government maintained a military presence in the region from 1865 until approximately 1879.


Political End to Reconstruction

The Presidential election of 1876 was a close race, but the Democratic candidate, Samuel Tilden, won the popular election by more than 200,000 votes. Unfortunately for Tilden, he received only 184 of the 185 electoral votes needed to assume the Presidency. While Republican Candidate Rutherford B. Hayes held only 165 electoral votes, 20 votes were still in dispute. With the exception of a single vote from Oregon, the majority of the undecided ballots were from the secessionist states of South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, which were governed by Reconstructionist Republicans (Hayes' party). These states returned two sets of electoral ballots - one favoring Tilden, and one favoring Hayes, so there was no clear winner.

Lacking Constitutional guidance for resolving a tied election, Congress decided to create an impartial Electoral Commission to make the decision. The Commission was intended to be ideologically balanced with five members of the House, five members of the Senate, and five members of the Supreme Court, comprising seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one Independent.

The Independent, Supreme Court Justices David Davis decided he didn't want the pressure of being the swing vote, so, when his home state of Illinois offered him a Senate position, he accepted and resigned from the Committee. With no Independents remaining on the Supreme Court, Justice Davis was replaced by Justice Joseph Bradley, a Republican. This resulted in a Committee of eight Republicans and seven Democrats, all of whom voted down party lines, awarding the 20 disputed electoral ballots and the Presidency to Hayes. (This lead Democrats to refer to the new President as Rutherfraud B. Hayes, for what they considered his fraudulent ascension to the Presidency.)

Older historical documents refer to the outcome of the vote as the Compromise of 1877 and to the Wormley House Agreement (where Republicans and Democrats allegedly met in secret to hammer out a compromise), which supposedly resulted in Republicans agreeing to remove federal troops from the Southern States in exchange for certain political concessions. More contemporary research, however, raises some doubts about both events. Many historians now believe the decision to pull the military from the South had already been decided due to rising tensions between the military and Southerners that was threatening to erupt in violence.

President Hayes began withdrawing Union troops from the South shortly after his inauguration. Within a short period of time, Southern state and local political control reverted to the old-school southern Democrats, who began systematically establishing "Jim Crow Laws" aimed at segregating African-Americans from "white society," and restricting African-Americans' freedoms and options.


Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws prohibited African-Americans from using the same accommodations as whites, and subjected them to discrimination, overt control, and restrictions on personal liberty. The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to protect against blatant discrimination, but a series of legislative acts and US Supreme Court rulings undermined its application.

According to some historians, segregation was targeted directly at the developing African-American middle class, to prevent the perceived threat of equality that undermined certain whites' feelings of superiority. While poor African-Americans continued to relate to whites much the same as they had under slavery, middle-class African-Americans, only two generations removed from slavery at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, had made significant advances in terms of literacy, education, property ownership, and wealth, and had reasonable expectations of being treated as peers, not subordinates. Many whites, on the other hand, believed prosperous African-Americans had "stepped out of place," and continued to view them as inferior.

Many of the Jim Crow laws were applied to situations where African-Americans demonstrated educational and economic equality - in shopping districts, travel, and in the voting booth - and were enforced unevenly, with African-Americans who were performing in the service of a white person (as a nanny, companion, or assistant) allowed greater latitude than independent, well-dressed African-Americans. New Orleans' streetcar rules, which forced African-Americans to stand behind a screen, hidden from white passengers unless working servile capacity, illustrated segregation was more about establishing a social hierarchy than ensuring separation.

Louisiana, where the Plessy case originated, had an even more complex social structure than most Southern states because many of its residents were of mixed ethnicity. Although the South adhered to the "one drop rule" (a person was classified as black even if he or she had only a single African ancestor, unless the person could "pass" for white, and chose to do so), those with lighter skin, or a higher percentage of white ancestry, had higher social status than those with little or no "white blood." Homer Plessy, the petitioner in this case, for example, was classified as an "Octoroon," a very light-skinned person who was one-eighth African-American.

Some of the legislation and rulings of the post-Reconstruction era almost completely undid the progress made immediately following the war.

The following were of particular importance to the Plessy case:

Civil Rights Cases, (1883)

Civil Rights Cases, 109 US 3 (1883), was a consolidation of five cases in which African-Americans legally challenged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which specifically mandated equal access to private accommodations, such as lodging, travel and entertainment. Among the grievances were exclusion from a hotel dining room; refusal of admission to a New York City opera; segregation to lower-quality seats in a theater; and removal from a train car set aside for white women. All of these indignities were violations of rights enumerated in the 1875 legislation.

The Supreme Court analyzed these cases in view of the Fourteenth Amendment and concluded the Amendment was not designed to apply to private citizens or private organizations, but only to the federal and state governments. This decision resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 being invalidated, and opened the doors to blatant discrimination by businesses and individuals.

John Marshall Harlan, who was a supporter of civil rights, was the lone voice of dissent on the Court, which ruled 8-1 against the petitioners. Harlan argued that the Thirteenth Amendment was intended to remove the badge of servitude, and that Congress had the right to legislate against the discrimination:

"I am of the opinion that such discrimination practiced by corporations and individuals in the exercise of their public or quasi-public functions is a badge of servitude the imposition of which Congress may prevent under its power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment; and consequently, without reference to its enlarged power under the Fourteenth Amendment, the act of March 1, 1875, is not, in my judgment, repugnant to the Constitution."

The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890

In 1862, Congress established the "Land-Grant College Act" (more commonly known as the First Morrill Act) which provided 30,000 acres to every state that remained in the union to sell in order to fund public land-grant colleges. Under segregation, African-Americans were not permitted to attend the whites-only schools, but the act provided that States could use some of the money to establish "separate but equal" facilities for African-Americans. Only Mississippi and Kentucky agreed; the rest used the money exclusively for white students. After emancipation, a few more states established "Normal Schools," which were like junior colleges used exclusively for teacher training.

In 1890, Congress determined to force states to distribute the land-grant money equally, and thus legislated that African-American institutions were to receive an equal amount of funding. They also required any state that did not already have a college or university for African-American students to build one. This resulted in the foundation of 16 "Black Land-Grant Institutions." Congress had positive intentions, and the Second Morrill Act, expanded African-Americans' access to higher education; but the Act also reinforced the notion that "separate but equal" was an acceptable condition under the Constitution. This was not challenged in the Supreme Court.

(Also note that this predates the Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896) decision usually credited with establishing the "separate but equal" doctrine. In fact, the government and private businesses had already put "separate but equal" into practice; the Supreme Court ruling validated the legality of this form of discrimination and allowed Jim Crow laws to flourish.)

Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890

In 1890, the Louisiana State Legislature passed the Separate Car Act (Act 111), which enforced "separate but equal" travel accommodations in railway transportation. The Act stated: "...all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this state shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and the colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations" (emphasis in original).


Violation of the law was a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $25.00 fine (a lot of money in 1890) or a 20-days jail sentence. The legislation encountered some opposition among Republicans (who, at the time, were more liberal than Southern Democrats), who expressed a belief that the law was being enacted to placate lower-class whites who had "no social or moral standing in the community." Despite resistance, the law based by a vote of 23-6.

On May 24, 1890, the Louisiana legislature received a signed complaint submitted by seventeen prominent African-American professionals, entitled "Protest of the American Citizens' Equal Rights Association of Louisiana Against Class Legislation." Two of the signatories were Louis Martinet and Rudolphe Desdunes, who became leading activists in the fight for civil rights after Reconstruction.

The men disparaged the law as "unconstitutional, un-American, unjust, dangerous, and against sound public policy [that would be] a free license to the evilly disposed that they might with impunity insult, humiliate and otherwise maltreat inoffensive persons, and especially women and children who happen to have dark skin."

In separate essays published in The Crusader newspaper, Martinet and Desdunes laid blame for passage of the bill on the backs of the 18 African-American legislators who had gained office by virtue of the 15th Amendment giving Black men the right vote and twelve of whom had voted in favor of the Act in exchange for white votes against other Jim Crow legislation. The white politicans broke their promises.


Challenging Jim Crow in New Orleans

In the South, especially in urban areas, educated African-American professionals formed committees to deliberately and systematically challenge segregationist policies. In New Orleans, attorney, newspaper publisher (The Crusader), and later physician, Louis André Martinet helped organize the "Citizens' Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law" (generally called the "Citizens' Committee") in 1891.

Their first orchestrated challenge was carried out by Daniel Desdunes, who purchased a first-class ticket from the Louisiana & Nashville Railroad to travel from New Orleans, LA, to Montgomery, AL, across state lines. The initial protest was against practices that violated established federal statutes, in this case invoking the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which granted Congress the right to regulate travel and business between the states. Congress earlier declared segregation could not be applied to interstate travelers because it disrupted the flow of commerce, a rule not based on individual rights, but on federal supremacy.

On February 24, 1892, Desdunes boarded a segregated "whites-only" coach and refused to leave. He was duly arrested. Desdunes case never went to trial, however, because the Louisiana Supreme Court voted in another case on May 25, 1892, Abbott v. Hicks, 44 La.Ann. 770, to uphold federal Commerce Clause regulations, rendering the Desdunes case moot.

The Citizens' Committee raised $3,000 to finance a second dispute. Martinet had established ongoing correspondence with New York attorney Albion Tourgee, a well-known, "white" former judge (Tourgee's comments about himself actually suggest he considered himself an a person of mixed heritage who was "passing" as white) and author of French descent. Tourgee helped create the North Carolina Constitution, and had served as a superior court judge for several years. He was known for his intensity and intelligence, and was also a militant supporter of equality. The Citizen's Committee unanimously voted Tourgee their counsel of record, which he undertook without pay, for the battle to repeal the Separate Car Act.

Tourgee believed there would be an advantage to having an African-American with a very light complexion challenge the law. The Citizens' Committee resisted the idea at first, because it seemed to suggest the more privileged lighter-skinned people were entitled to better treatment than those with darker skin. Some believed the Committee intended only to help lighter people "pass" for white. Eventually, Tourgee persuaded the members to accept his plan.

In contrast to the Desdunes case, Tourgee believed they should solicit the railroad company's assistance, to ensure conductors would enforce the law. The first railroad they approached expressed interest, but confessed they only followed the legal provisions requiring them to provide a separate "colored" car and signage. Their employees were instructed not to interfere with travelers who ignored the rules. Two other railroads criticized the law, but feared public reaction to the plan.

The Citizens' Committee finally enlisted the cooperation of the East Louisiana Railroad, which adhered to the law, but wanted the Separate Car Act terminated for economic reasons.

On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, a 30-year-old "octoroon" (he had one African-American grandparent), purchase a first-class ticket for his trip, boarded a designated white coach, and took a seat. The railroad officials conspiring with the Citizens' Committee insisted Plessy remove himself to the Jim Crow car; Plessy refused; and the railroad had him arrested on charges of violating the Separate Car Act. Plessy was brought before Judge Ferguson in the Criminal District Court for the Parish of New Orleans.

Albion Tourgee and his local co-counsel, James Walker, argued that the law was unconstitutional and should be nullified under the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution because segregation imposed a badge of servitude and singled out African-Americans as inferior. They also argued the law was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment because "separate but equal" was not really equal. Judge Ferguson found Plessy guilty.





UNDER CONSTRUCTION



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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the effect of the Supreme Court case Plessy v Ferguson?

Made racial segregation legal. Also, it improved the black community buildings, by saying that the conditions of the black's community buildings have to be the same as the white's community buildings.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What three words describe Plessy v. Ferguson?

"Separate but Equal"

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African-American History
US Supreme Court
Plessy v. Ferguson

How did the court rule in plessy?

It constitutionaliszed the "Seprate, but Equal" doctrine.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was one result of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision?

Plessy v. Ferguson was a landmark Supreme Court case that stated that segregation is legal, but the facilities had to be equal for both blacks and whites ("separate but equal").

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What statement is the best description of the plessy v Ferguson supreme court?

It legalized the public segregation of blacks and whites.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What case overturned plessy v Ferguson?

The Brown vs. Board of Education case overturned the Plessy vs. Ferguson case.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What is a brief summary of Plessy v Ferguson?

Plessy v. Ferguson was an 1896 decision by the US Supreme Court that confirmed the principle of "Separate but Equal" and minority segregation.

The case began in Louisiana in 1892. Homer Plessy agreed to be arrested to test the 1890 law establishing "whites only" train cars. Although he himself was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, he was still legally required to sit in the "colored" car of the train.

The judge at the trial was John Howard Ferguson, a lawyer from Massachusetts who had previously declared the Separate Car Act "unconstitutional on trains that traveled through several states." In Plessy's case, however, he decided that the state could choose to regulate railroad companies that operated only within Louisiana. He found Plessy guilty of refusing to leave the white car. Plessy appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld Ferguson's decision.

In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy's case and found the law constitutional. Plessy paid the fine for the offense, but the case renewed black opposition to such laws.

The Plessy decision set the precedent that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal" (which was seldom the case). The "separate but equal" doctrine had already been extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. Not until 1954, in the equally important Brown v. Board of Education decision, would the "separate but equal" doctrine be struck down.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

Which effect can be traced directly to the Supreme Court's ruling in Plessy v Ferguson?

racial segregation was permitted for nearly 60 years

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What year was the Plessy v Ferguson case decided?

The US Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Melville Fuller, announced its decision on May 18, 1896.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

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Plessy v. Ferguson

Where was the Plessy v Ferguson group first formed?

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

The Citizens' Committee of New Orleans (Comité des Citoyens) was established in New Orleans, Louisiana, by a group of African-American professionals of French descent who wanted to fight state segregation laws. Plessy was not their first attempt at a constitutional challenge of Louisiana's race-based statutes, just the best know.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

Why was Plessy vs Ferguson important?

Plessy vs. Ferguson was a Supreme Court case which stated that racial segregation was constitutional. According to this ruling, they were "separate but equal".

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the significance of Plessy v Ferguson?

The Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896 is significant in the course of American history, as it's outcome upheld the notion that racial segregation was constitutionally legal under the "separate but equal" doctrine.

The Court held segregation was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, as long as States provided equal accommodations for both races (which was rarely the case). The Equal Protection Clause states that "no state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The decision in Plessy validated the practice of segregation and lead to the proliferation of racist Jim Crow laws in the south, which was a major part of what the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's hoped to eliminate. Plessy basically granted legislative immunity to states regarding race.

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896) was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954)

Case Citation:

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What did plessy vs Ferguson do?

It legalized separate but equal.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the Supreme Court case Plessy v Ferguson about?

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), was the landmark US Supreme Court case that legalized discrimination against African-Americans and gave credence to the "separate but equal" doctrine.

In 1890, the Louisiana State Legislature passed the Separate Car Act (Act 111), which enforced "separate but equal" travel accommodations in railway transportation. The Act stated: "...all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this state shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and the colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations" Violation of the law was a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $25.00 fine or a 20-days jail sentence.

On May 24, 1890, the Louisiana legislature received a signed complaint submitted by seventeen prominent African-American professionals, entitled "Protest of the American Citizens' Equal Rights Association of Louisiana Against Class Legislation." These men and women organized the "Citizens' Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law" (generally called the "Citizens' Committee") in 1891.

Daniel Desdunes, one of the group leaders, was first to challenge the law. He purchased a first-class ticket from the Louisiana & Nashville Railroad to travel from New Orleans, LA, to Montgomery, AL, across state lines. Before his case could be tried in court, however, the Louisiana Supreme Court voted in another case on May 25, 1892, Abbott v. Hicks, 44 La.Ann. 770, to uphold federal Commerce Clause regulations, rendering the Desdunes case moot.

The Citizens' Committee raised $3,000 to finance a second dispute, and enlisted New York attorney Albion Tourgee, a well-known former judge and civil rights activist, to provide advice and legal counsel. Tourgee suggested the next attempt to challenge the law should be made by someone with a light complexion, a suggestion that offended some members of the Committee.

Homer Plessy, a 30-year-old "octoroon" (he had one African-American grandparent), was selected as an appropriate candidate to challenge the law. Plessy purchased a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad on June 7, 1892, boarded the first-class "whites only" railroad coach, and took a seat.

Because Plessy did not appear to have any African-American heritage, the Committee conspired with the East Louisiana Railroad, which wanted the Separate Car Act overturned for economic reasons, to challenge Plessy's right to sit in the segregated coach. They also hired a private detective to ride along and make a citizen's arrest, to ensure Plessy was charged with breaking the law.

The railroad officials conspiring with the Citizens' Committee insisted Plessy remove himself to the Jim Crow car; Plessy refused; and the private detective arrested him on charges of violating the Separate Car Act. Plessy was brought before Judge Ferguson in the Criminal District Court for the Parish of New Orleans, but refused to enter a plea. His attorneys, Tourgee and local counsel John C. Walker, argued the law was unconstitutional under the Thirteenth Amendment. Judge Ferguson found Plessy guilty and fined him $500. Plessy appealed.

Supreme Court Decision

The case was upheld in the lower courts, then petitioned to the US Supreme Court for review in light of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

In a 7-1 decision delivered by Justice Brown, the Court held that state-sanctioned segregation was constitutional, as long as the separate facilities were equal. As precedent, Brown cited both the Civil Rights Cases, 109 US 3 (1883), which determined the 14th Amendment applied only to states, but not to private individuals or businesses, and the fact that Washington D.C. public schools, under the rule of federal government, was already practicing segregation in education. Justice Brown further concluded that segregation in public accommodations did not constitute discrimination, and dismissed Plessy's argument about infringement of his Thirteenth Amendment rights.

The sole dissenter, Justice John M. Harlan I, wrote:

"In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case. It was adjudged in that case that the descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves were not included nor intended to be included under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and could not claim any of the rights and privileges which that instrument provided for and secured to citizens of the United States; that, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, they were "considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them."

The majority opinion gave rise to the "separate but equal" doctrine that invaded nearly every aspect of African-Americans' lives. Plessy represented the South's reaction to, and contravention of, the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Court's decision gave tacit permission to the establishment of Jim Crow laws, which violated the civil rights of African-Americans in a way not anticipated by the Constitution.

Case Citation:

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What doctrine was established in Plessy v. Ferguson?

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896) established the "separate but equal" doctrine that allowed Jim Crow segregation laws to flourish throughout the United States. This doctrine was held to be unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment in Brown v. Board of Education, (1954).

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Plessy v. Ferguson

Who was president during the case plessy vs Ferguson?

Grover Cleveland was the President at the time in 1896!

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Brown v. Board of Education
Plessy v. Ferguson

What is the relationship between Brown v. Board of Education 1954 and Plessy v. Ferguson 1896?

The landmark case that desegregated schools was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, a 1954 case in which the Supreme Court Justices unanimously ruled segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren, in writing the Court opinion, declared "separate but equal is inherently unequal," because it violates the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. This overturned the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, which held the concept of "separate but equal" was constitutional.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

The state of Louisiana passed a law requiring separate railroad coach cars for African-Americans and Caucasians. Plessy, who was seven-eighths Caucasian, took a seat in the "whites-only" car, refused to move to the "black" car, and was subsequently arrested.

The case was upheld in the lower courts, then petitioned to the US Supreme Court for review in light of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

The Court, in an opinion delivered by Justice Brown, held that state-sanctioned segregation was constitutional, as long as the separate facilities were equal. As precedent, Brown cited both the Civil Rights Cases, 109 US 3 (1883), which determined the 14th Amendment applied only to states, but not to private individuals or businesses, and the fact that Washington D.C. public schools, under the rule of federal government, was already practicing segregation in education. Justice Brown further concluded that segregation in public accommodations did not constitute discrimination.

Justice Harlan, in an impassioned and prophetic lone dissent, wrote (in part):

"In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case. It was adjudged in that case that the descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves were not included nor intended to be included under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and could not claim any of the rights and privileges which that instrument provided for and secured to citizens of the United States; that, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, they were "considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them."

and

"The recent amendments of the Constitution [referring to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments], it was supposed, had eradicated these principles from our institutions. But it seems that we have yet, in some of the States, a dominant race -- a superior class of citizens, which assumes to regulate the enjoyment of civil rights, common to all citizens, upon the basis of race. The present decision, it may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief that it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficent purposes which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent amendments of the Constitution, by one of which the blacks of this country were made citizens of the United States and of the States in which they respectively reside, and whose privileges and immunities, as citizens, the States are forbidden to abridge.

"Sixty millions of whites are in no danger from the presence here of eight millions of blacks. The destinies of the two races in this country are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seeds of race hate to be planted under the sanction of law. What can more certainly arouse race hate, what more certainly create and perpetuate a feeling of distrust between these races, than state enactments which, in fact, proceed on the ground that colored citizens are so inferior and degraded that they cannot be allowed to sit in public coaches occupied by white citizens. That, as all will admit, is the real meaning of such legislation as was enacted in Louisiana."

and

"The arbitrary separation of citizens on the basis of race while they are on a public highway is a badge of servitude [in violation of the 13th Amendment] wholly inconsistent with the civil freedom and the equality before the law established by the Constitution. It cannot be justified upon any legal grounds."

The majority opinion gave rise to the "separate but equal" doctrine that invaded nearly every aspect of African-Americans' lives. Plessy represented the South's reaction to, and contravention of, the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Court's decision gave tacit permission to the establishment of Jim Crow laws, which violated the civil rights of African-Americans in a way not anticipated by the Constitution.

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954)

Brown was a consolidation of five cases addressing racial discrimination inherent in the "separate but equal" doctrine. The NAACP argued that prohibiting African-Americans from attending then-all-white schools was de jure (legalized) discrimination prohibited by the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

The question before the Court: "Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprive the minority children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment?"

In a unanimous decision, the Warren Court concluded that the equalization of tangible factors, such as facilities and instructional materials, did not foster equality because intangible factors, such as segregation itself, was stigmatizing and created an inferior class of citizens.

Brown v. Board of Education, (1954) effectively gutted the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), and established that "separate but equal" is not equal.

Although Brown began the process of integration, it did not effect immediate change. The Court convened a year later to devise a practical method of facilitating desegregation, a topic not addressed until Brown II (Brown v. Board of Education, 349 US 294 (1955).

In Brown II, the Court's instructions were vague and left too much leeway for school districts to delay action. The individual cases were remanded back to their District Courts for orders and enforcement (the US Supreme Court has no enforcement power), with the instruction to "admit the parties to these cases to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed."

Unfortunately, the federal government did little to enforce the Supreme Court ruling until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While society has changed dramatically since Plessy and even since Brown, human nature has not. The quest for equality is an ongoing struggle that demands vigilance and effort from all who support its goals.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

When was plessy V Ferguson born?

1896

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the outcome of Plessy v. Ferguson?

The existing laws allowing "separate but equal" public accommodations were unchallenged, although the system of segregation by race was inherently unjust and unequal. The emancipation of the Civil War had not immediately bestowed full citizenship to slaves, instead being replaced with another system of lawful disenfranchisement.

The US Supreme Court declined to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment as prohibiting segregation.

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896) was later reversed in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, (1954).

Case Citation:

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)

For more information, see Related Questions, below.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the outcome of Plessy vs. Ferguson?

Under the 1986 ruling, the law establishing "separate but equal" was ruled constitutional, and segregation continued in public accommodations and transportation.

Plessy v. Ferguson was later reversed in the case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
It allowed segregation and the "seperate but equal" concept.
That a white man did not have to honor any law protecting the rights of southern slaves

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What was the effect of the US Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson?

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) declared state segregation laws constitutional, as long as African-Americans were provided "separate but equal" facilities. Plessy represented a continued erosion of the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing Jim Crow laws to flourish, particularly in the South.

These laws permitted many whites who felt threatened by emancipation to maintain a delusion of superiority. The act of segregation made African-Americans appear inferior and encouraged racism to continue unchecked for decades.

Case Citation:

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896)
The effect of Plessy v. Fergusson was that it was lawful for government, common carriers, and places of public accommodation to discriminate against people in the provision of goods and services and rights based upon the color of their skin as long as they were provided "separate but equal" accommodations.
The "Separate but Equal" doctrine was enacted

this meant that public places were still segregated however the had equal quality

For example: There is a School for white children and a school for African American Children. they separate but they have the same books and materials.

if you don't understand than search the "Separate but Equal" doctrine
It established that separate but equal facilities for different races were not acting against the law in anyway.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

What were the circumstances of Plessy v. Ferguson?

In 1890 Louisiana passed a law that required separate accommodations for Blacks and Whites on the trains. It did require that the accommodations be "Equal".

A group of concerned white and black citizens hired a detective and had Homer Plessy board a "White Only" railroad car. Plessy was a very light skinned black. This allowed him to purchase a ticket on the "White Only" car. There he was to announce that he was one eighth negro. The detective was to insure that Plessy was arrested for violation of the "Separate Car Act", and not vagrancy. That would allow the court case that followed to challenge the "Separate Car Act".

Plessy was arrested and the "Separate Car Act" was challenged in court. Eventually the Supreme Cort of the United States upheld the law. In 1896, Plessy plead guilty and paid a fine.

The incident itself happened in 1892 and in 1896 the US Supreme Court made "separate but equal" the law of the land. This was reversed by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

The case citation is Plessy v. Ferguson,163 US 537 (1896)

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