Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Plessy … [14] Legislative achievements won during the Reconstruction Era were erased through means of the "separate but equal" doctrine. Ferguson was represented by Louisiana Attorney General M. J. Cunningham and Plessy by F. D. McKenney and S. F. Phillips. The object of the [Fourteenth] Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things, it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. This ruling set the tone in all of the south politically, which allowed white supremacy to thrive l… A Single, But Powerful, Dissent. [43] The principles of Plessy v. Ferguson were affirmed in Lum v. Rice (1927), which upheld the right of a Mississippi public school for white children to exclude a Chinese American girl. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). This contradicted the vague declaration of "separate but equal" institutions issued after the Plessy decision. Please select which sections you would like to print: While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. [14], In his case, Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, Plessy's lawyers argued that the state law which required East Louisiana Railroad to segregate trains had denied him his rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution,[15] which provided for equal treatment under the law. [51], "Plessy" redirects here. Justice John Marshall Harlan was the lone dissenter from the Court's decision, writing that the U.S. Constitution "is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens", and so the law's distinguishing of passengers' races should have been found unconstitutional. Board of Education of Topeka explicitly rejected Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine as it applied to public education and implied its unconstitutionality in all other spheres of public life. There is no caste here. [33], Despite the pretense of "separate but equal", non-whites essentially always received inferior facilities and treatment.[34]. After the state Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, and oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1896. The Separate Car Act did not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, according to Brown, because it did not reestablish slavery or constitute a “badge” of slavery or servitude. Significance of Plessy v. Ferguson. 5/18/1896. At Plessy’s trial in U.S. District Court, Judge John H. Ferguson dismissed his contention that the act was unconstitutional. Oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court on April 13, 1896. No one would be so wanting in candor as to assert the contrary. "[18][17], Undaunted, the Committee appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1896. [49] The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided for federal oversight and enforcement of voter registration and voting. [8] Concerned, a group of prominent black, creole of color, and white creole New Orleans residents formed the Comité des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens) dedicated to repeal the law or fight its effect. At trial, Plessy’s lawyers argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plessy v. Ferguson originated in Louisiana, where, as a result of previous French influence, there was generally greater toleration of people of color than in the rest of the Deep South. B) It created a precedence for ending separate-but-equal facilities established by Plessy v. Ferguson. [13] As planned, the train was stopped, and Plessy was taken off the train at Press and Royal streets. Homer Plessy, who was seven-eighths white and one-eighth African American, purchased a rail ticket for travel within Louisiana and took a seat in a car reserved for white passengers. [28], Plessy legitimized state laws establishing racial segregation in the South and provided an impetus for further segregation laws. States which had successfully integrated elements of their society abruptly adopted oppressive legislation that erased reconstruction era efforts. “Our Constitution is color-blind,” Harlan wrote. Yet the act did not conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment either, Brown argued, because that amendment was intended to secure only the legal equality of African Americans and whites, not their social equality. Updates? The doctrine had been strengthened also by an 1875 Supreme Court decision that limited the federal govern… The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brownv. After the Civil War, the South enacted black codes to keep their former slaves under tight control. https://www.britannica.com/event/Plessy-v-Ferguson-1896, Cornell University Law School - Legal Information Institute - Plessy v. Ferguson, Our Documents - Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Plessy v. Ferguson - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). One of the most famous Supreme Court decisions, the case solidified the "separate but equal" doctrine as the law of the … Plessy vs Ferguson (1896)was a United States Supreme Court case that established the precedent of “separate but equal” and provided the legal justification for the expansion of segregation in America.At the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877, the South (and to a certain degree, the North) had resisted attempts to integrate the newly freed slaves into their society. Plessy v. Ferguson. Every one knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose, not so much to exclude white people from railroad cars occupied by blacks, as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied by or assigned to white persons. The Massachusetts Supreme Court had ruled in 1849—before the 14th amendment—that segregated schools were constitutional. [10], On June 7, 1892, Plessy bought a first-class ticket at the Press Street Depot and boarded a "Whites Only" car of the East Louisiana Railroad in New Orleans, Louisiana, bound for Covington, Louisiana. [31] The doctrine had been strengthened also by an 1875 Supreme Court decision that limited the federal government's ability to intervene in state affairs, guaranteeing to Congress only the power "to restrain states from acts of racial discrimination and segregation". Plessyv. I allude to the Chinese race. As plaintiff in the test case the committee chose a person of mixed race in order to support its contention that the law could not be consistently applied, because it failed to define the white and “coloured” races. Plessy v. Ferguson was a landmark constitutional case being that it upheld state racial segregation laws, specifically in regards to the 13th Amendment. The ruling provided legal justification for segregation on trains and buses, and in public facilities such as hotels, theaters, and schools. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy agreed to be arrested for refusing to move from a seat reserved for whites. Fergusonis a legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court put forward the controversial “separate but equal” doctrine, according to which laws mandating racial segregation (generally of African Americans and whites) in public accommodations (e.g., inns and public conveyances) were constitutional provided that the separate facilities for each race were equal. He lost at trial, and his conviction was affirmed on his appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The prospect of greater state influence in matters of race worried numerous advocates of civil equality, including Supreme Court Justice John Harlan, who wrote in his Plessy dissent, "we shall enter upon an era of constitutional law, when the rights of freedom and American citizenship cannot receive from the nation that efficient protection which heretofore was unhesitatingly accorded to slavery and the rights of the master. On May 18, 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v.Ferguson ruled that separate-but-equal facilities were constitutional. [7], In 1890, the state of Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, which required separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads, including separate railway cars. Cunningham was a staunch supporter of white supremacy, who according to a laudatory 1916 obituary "worked so effectively [during Reconstruction] in restoring white supremacy in politics that he finally was arrested, with fifty-one other men of that community, and tried by federal officials."[20]. He concluded that “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” (1857), which had declared (in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney) that African Americans were not entitled to the rights of U.S. citizenship. "[16] The law itself was repealed five years later, but the precedent stood. 1, National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plessy_v._Ferguson&oldid=1001755865, African-American history between emancipation and the civil rights movement, History of racial segregation in the United States, Passenger rail transportation in Louisiana, United States Supreme Court cases of the Fuller Court, Overruled United States Supreme Court decisions, Wikipedia pending changes protected pages, Short description is different from Wikidata, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, The "separate but equal" provision of private services mandated by state government is constitutional under the, Brown, joined by Fuller, Field, Gray, Shiras, White, Peckham. In reaching this conclusion he relied on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Civil Rights Cases (1883), which found that racial discrimination against African Americans in inns, public conveyances, and places of public amusement “imposes no badge of slavery or involuntary servitude…but at most, infringes rights which are protected from State aggression by the XIVth Amendment.”. It is simply to say that following the order of Divine Providence, human authority ought not to compel these widely separated races to intermix. [35] In addition, from 1890 to 1908, Southern states passed new or amended constitutions including provisions that effectively disenfranchised blacks and thousands of poor whites. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. Plessy legitimized state laws establishing racial segregation in the Southand provided an impetus for further segregation laws. Brian Duignan is a senior editor at Encyclopædia Britannica. After refusing to move to a car for African Americans, he was arrested and charged with violating the Separate Car Act. Plessy's lawyer, Albion Tourgee, claimed Plessy's 13th and 14th amendment rights were violated. The Plessy Decision. [32] The ruling basically granted states legislative immunity when dealing with questions of race, guaranteeing the states' right to implement racially separate institutions, requiring them only to be "equal". Brewer did not participate in the case because he had left Washington just before oral arguments to attend to the sudden death of his daughter. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Henry Billings Brown rejected Plessy’s arguments that the act violated the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted full and equal rights of citizenship to African Americans. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). The court rendered its decision one month later, on May 18. Plessy's lawyers had argued that segregation laws inherently implied that black people were inferior, and therefore stigmatized them with a second-class status that violated the Equal Protection Clause. When Plessy was told to vacate the whites-only car, he refused and was arrested. D) It prompted President Truman to end segregation in the United States Army since the American Revolution. The Court reasoned that laws requiring racial separation were within Louisiana's police power: the core sovereign authority of U.S. States to pass laws on matters of "health, safety, and morals". Plessy was convicted and sentenced to pay a $25 fine. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) In Plessy v.Ferguson the Supreme Court held that the state of Louisiana did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment by establishing and enforcing a policy of racial segregation in its railway system.Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote a memorable dissent to that decision, parts of which are quoted today by both sides of the affirmative action controversy. Plessy then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case. (Brown v. 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. The effect of the law, he argued, was to interfere with the personal liberty and freedom of movement of both African Americans and whites. [42], The effect of the Plessy ruling was immediate; there were already significant differences in funding for the segregated school system, which continued into the 20th century; states consistently underfunded black schools, providing them with substandard buildings, textbooks, and supplies. Although the majority opinion did not contain the phrase “separate but equal,” it gave constitutional sanction to laws designed to achieve racial segregation by means of separate and supposedly equal public facilities and services for African Americans and whites. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was a historic point sacred law instance of the US Supreme Court. Memorial marker at the location of Homer Plessy's arrest on June 7, 1892, in New Orleans. Tourgée argued that the reputation of being a black man was "property", which, by the law, implied the inferiority of African Americans as compared to whites. However, the judge presiding over his case, John Howard Ferguson, ruled that Louisiana had the right to regulate railroad companies while they operated within state boundaries. Decided in 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson dictated … The Plessy v.Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation over the next half-century. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality, a doctrine that came to be known as " separate but equal ". [12] After Plessy took a seat in the whites-only railway car, he was asked to vacate it, and sit instead in the blacks-only car. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. The foundation will work to create new ways to teach the history of civil rights through film, art, and public programs designed to create understanding of this historic case and its effect on the American conscience. It served as a controlling judicial precedent until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). [19] The state legal brief was prepared by Attorney General Milton Joseph Cunningham of Natchitoches and New Orleans. [11] The railroad company, which had opposed the law on the grounds that it would require the purchase of more railcars, had been previously informed of Plessy's racial lineage, and the intent to challenge the law. On May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court issued a 7–1 decision against Plessy that upheld the constitutionality of Louisiana's train car segregation laws. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, a light-skinned black man, sat in a "White" car, identifying himself as black in order to challenge the law. Upon being charged for boarding a "whites only" train car, Plessy's lawyers defended him by arguing that the law was unconstitutional. The significance of the decision was that the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t unconstitutional for segregated transportation or public services, as long as they were equal. Others subjected blacks to criminal penalties for breaching labor contracts. “Separate but equal” stayed standard teaching in U.S. law until its disavowal in the 1954 Supreme Court choice Brown v. Board of Education. and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. The judge found that Louisiana could enforce this law insofar as it affected railroads within its boundaries. Significance. For example, some states prohibited blacks, who were not a party to a suit, from testifying in court. [48] Plessy v. Ferguson was never explicitly overruled by the Supreme Court, but is effectively dead as a precedent. Despite the laws enforcing compulsory education, and the lack of public schools for Chinese children in Lum's area, the Supreme Court ruled that she had the choice to attend a private school. Rules and law… African-American community leaders, who had achieved brief political success during the Reconstruction era and even into the 1880s, lost gains made when their voters were excluded from the political system. Brewer took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Write in complete sentences. The thirty-year-old Plessy was jailed for not sitting in the "Colored" car. Some commentators, such as Gabriel J. Chin[36] and Eric Maltz,[37] have viewed Harlan's Plessy dissent in a more critical light, and suggested it be viewed in context with his other decisions. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. [50], In 2009 a marker was placed[12] at the corner of Press and Royal Streets, near where Plessy had boarded his train. The Court rejected Plessy's lawyers' arguments that the Louisiana law inherently implied that black people were inferior, and gave great deference to American state legislatures' inherent power to make laws regulating health, safety, and morals—the "police power"—and to determine the reasonableness of the laws they passed. [6] However, a series of subsequent decisions beginning with the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, which held that the "separate but equal" doctrine is unconstitutional in the context of public schools and educational facilities, have severely weakened Plessy to the point that it is considered to have been de facto overruled. Harlan disagreed with the Court's rejection of Plessy's argument that the Louisiana law implied that blacks were inferior, and accused the majority of being willfully ignorant on the subject. Corrections? Plessy vs Ferguson case was was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality, a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal". Plessy v. Ferguson strengthened racial segregation in public accommodations and services throughout the United States and ensured its continuation for more than half a century by giving it constitutional sanction. However, under Louisiana law, he was classified as black, and thus required to sit in the "colored" car. It maintained state racial segregation laws for open offices under the tenet of “Separate but equal”. The U.S. Supreme Court’s majority held that such laws neither imposed a “badge of servitude” (in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, prohibiting slavery) nor infringed on the legal equality of blacks (in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection of the laws), because the accommodations were supposedly equal and separateness did not imply legal inferiority. [30] Legislative achievements won during the Reconstruction Era were erased through means of the "separate but equal" doctrine. C) It broke a long-standing rule in the Major League Baseball not to hire African American baseball players. Plessy vs. Ferguson a case that was brought to supreme court by black lawsuits to challenge the legality of segregation. Allowed for Segregation and Separate but Equal which limited rights of African Americans. A video case brief of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). That meant that buses, water fountains, lunch counters, restrooms, movie theaters, schools, courtrooms, and even the United States Army could all be segregated. In contrast, social equality, which would entail the “commingling” of the races in public conveyances and elsewhere, did not then exist and could not be legally created: “If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.” In response to Plessy’s comparison of the Separate Car Act to hypothetical statutes requiring African Americans and whites to walk on different sides of the street or to live in differently coloured houses, Brown responded that the Separate Car Act was intended to preserve “public peace and good order” and was therefore a “reasonable” exercise of the legislature’s police power. States prohibited blacks, who were not a party to a suit, testifying. 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