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Encyclopedia > Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued April 30, 1896
Decided May 18, 1896
Full case name: Homer A. Plessy v. Ferguson
Citations: 163 U.S. 537; 16 S. Ct. 1138; 41 L. Ed. 256; 1896 U.S. LEXIS 3390
Prior history: Ex parte Plessy, 11 So. 948 (La. 1892)
Subsequent history: None
Holding
The "separate but equal" provision of public accommodations by state governments is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.
Court membership
Chief Justice: Melville Fuller
Associate Justices: Stephen Johnson Field, John Marshall Harlan, Horace Gray, David Josiah Brewer, Henry Billings Brown, George Shiras, Jr., Edward Douglass White, Rufus Wheeler Peckham
Case opinions
Majority by: Brown
Joined by: Fuller, Field, Gray, Shiras, White, Peckham
Dissent by: Harlan
Brewer took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV; 1890 La. Acts 152
Overruled by
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of "separate but equal". The famous decision by the United States Supreme Court can be found at Plessy v. ... Image File history File links Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court. ... Federal courts Supreme Court Circuit Courts of Appeal District Courts Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Local Government Other countries Atlas  US Government Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (sometimes colloquially referred to by the... Congressman John Bingham of Ohio was the principal framer of the Equal Protection Clause. ... Melville Weston Fuller (February 11, 1833 – July 4, 1910) was the Chief Justice of the United States between 1888 and 1910. ... Stephen Johnson Field (November 4, 1816 – April 9, 1899) was an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from May 20, 1863, to December 1, 1897. ... This is about the pre-World-War-I US Supreme Court justice; for his grandson, the mid-20th-century holder of the same position, see John Marshall Harlan II. John Marshall Harlan (June 1, 1833 – October 14, 1911) was an American Supreme Court associate justice. ... Horace Gray (March 24, 1828-September 15, 1902) was an American jurist. ... David Josiah Brewer (January 20, 1837-March 28, 1910), was an American jurist. ... Henry Billings Brown (born South Lee, Massachusetts March 2, 1836 - died Bronxville, New York September 4, 1913) was a Republican United States Supreme Court justice from January 5, 1891 to May 28, 1906. ... Justice Shiras, 1900 George Shiras, Jr. ... Edward Douglass White (November 3, 1845 – May 19, 1921), American politician and jurist, was a United States Senator, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and the ninth Chief Justice of the United States. ... This article is about the Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; for Justice Peckhams father of the same name who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, see Rufus Wheeler Peckham (1809-1873). ... Amendment XIV in the National Archives The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIV) is one of the post-Civil War amendments (known as the Reconstruction Amendments), first intended to secure rights for former slaves. ... Holding Segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ... // The United States Reports, the official reporter of the Supreme Court of the United States Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a neutral form which will... Federal courts Supreme Court Circuit Courts of Appeal District Courts Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Local Government Other countries Atlas  US Government Portal      The Supreme Court of the United States (sometimes colloquially referred to by the... Constitutionality is the status of a law, a procedure, or an acts accordance with the laws or guidelines set forth in the applicable constitution. ... Racial segregation characterised by separation of different races in daily life, such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a rest room, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home. ... Separate but equal was a policy enacted into law throughout the U.S. Southern states during the period of segregation, in which African Americans and Americans of European descent would receive the same services (schools, hospitals, water fountains, bathrooms, etc. ...


The decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1, with the majority opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown and the dissent written by Justice John Marshall Harlan, (with Justice David Josiah Brewer not participating in this case). "Separate but equal" remained standard doctrine in U.S. law until its final repudiation in the later Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Henry Billings Brown (born South Lee, Massachusetts March 2, 1836 - died Bronxville, New York September 4, 1913) was a Republican United States Supreme Court justice from January 5, 1891 to May 28, 1906. ... This is about the pre-World-War-I US Supreme Court justice; for his grandson, the mid-20th-century holder of the same position, see John Marshall Harlan II. John Marshall Harlan (June 1, 1833 – October 14, 1911) was an American Supreme Court associate justice. ... David Josiah Brewer (January 20, 1837-March 28, 1910), was an American jurist. ... Holding Segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ...

Contents

Background

After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, during the period known as Reconstruction, the federal government was able to provide some protection for the civil rights of the newly-freed slaves. But when Reconstruction abruptly ended in 1877 and federal troops were withdrawn, southern state governments began passing Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from using the same public accommodations as whites. The Supreme Court had ruled, in the Civil Rights Cases (1883), that the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to the actions of government, not to those of private individuals, and consequently did not protect persons against individuals or private entities who violated their civil rights. In particular, the Court invalidated most of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a law passed by the United States Congress to protect blacks from private acts of discrimination. Combatants United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America (Confederacy) Commanders Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee Strength 2,200,000 1,064,000 Casualties 110,000 killed in action, 360,000 total dead, 275,200 wounded 93,000 killed in action, 258,000 total... For other uses, see Reconstruction (disambiguation). ... A drawing by Joseph Keppler depicts Roscoe Conkling as Mephistopheles, as Rutherford B. Hayes strolls off with a woman labeled as Solid South. The caption quotes Goethe: Unto that Power he doth belong / Which only doeth Right while ever willing Wrong. ... Manifestations Slavery Racial profiling Lynching Hate speech Hate crime Genocide (examples) Ethnocide Ethnic cleansing Pogrom Race war Religious persecution Gay bashing Blood libel Paternalism Police brutality Movements Policies Discriminatory Race / Religion / Sex segregation Apartheid Redlining Internment Anti-discriminatory Emancipation Civil rights Desegregation Integration Equal opportunity Counter-discriminatory Affirmative action Racial... Holding The Equal Protection clause applies only to state action, not segregation by privately owned businesses. ... Amendment XIV in the National Archives The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIV) is one of the post-Civil War amendments (known as the Reconstruction Amendments), first intended to secure rights for former slaves. ... The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 Stat. ... Type Bicameral Houses Senate House of Representatives President of the Senate President pro tempore Dick Cheney, (R) since January 20, 2001 Robert C. Byrd, (D) since January 4, 2007 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D) since January 4, 2007 Members 535 plus 4 Delegates and 1 Resident Commissioner Political...


In 1890, the State of Louisiana passed Act 111 that required separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads, including separate railway cars, though it specified that the accommodations must be kept "equal". Concerned, several black and white citizens in New Orleans formed an association, the Citizen's Committee to Test the Separate Car Act, dedicated to the repeal of that law. They raised $1412.70 which they offered to the then-famous author and Radical Republican jurist, Albion W. Tourgee, to serve as lead counsel for their test case. Tourgee agreed to do it pro bono. Later, they enlisted Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth black (an octoroon in the now-antiquated parlance), to serve as plaintiff. Their choice of a plaintiff who could "pass" for white was a deliberate attempt to exploit the lack of clear racial definition in either science or law so as to argue that segregation by race was an "unreasonable" use of state power. This article is about the U.S. State. ... New Orleans is the largest city in the state of Louisiana, United States of America. ... Justice is pictured as blind and her daughter the Law, ought at least to be color-blind. ... Homer Adolph Plessy (March 17, 1863 – March 1, 1925) was the American plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. ... An octoroon or mustee is the offspring of a quadroon and a European parent, having ancestry that is one-eighth Negroid. ...


The case

On June 7, 1892, Plessy boarded a car of the East Louisiana Railroad that was designated by whites for use by white patrons only. Although Plessy was one-eighth black and seven-eighths white, under Louisiana state law he was classified as an African-American, and thus required to sit in the "colored" car. When Plessy refused to leave the white car and move to the colored car, he was arrested and jailed. In his case, Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, Plessy argue that the ELR had denied him his constitutional rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, the judge presiding over his case, John Howard Ferguson, ruled that Louisiana had the right to regulate railroad companies as long as they operated within state boundaries. Plessy sought a writ of prohibition. is the 158th day of the year (159th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1892 (MDCCCXCII) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Amendment XIII in the National Archives The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially abolished, and continues to prohibit slavery and, with limited exceptions (those convicted of a crime), prohibits involuntary servitude. ...


Plessy took it to the Supreme Court of Louisiana where he again found an unreceptive ear, as the state Supreme Court upheld Judge Ferguson's ruling. Undaunted, Plessy appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 1896. Two legal briefs were submitted on Plessy's behalf. One was signed by Albion W. Tourgee and James C. Walker and the other by Samuel F. Phillips and his legal partner F.D. McKenney. Oral arguments were held before the Supreme Court on April 13, 1896. Only Tourgee and Phillips appeared in the courtroom to speak for the plaintiff (Plessy himself was not present). It would become one of the most famous decisions in American history. The laws of Louisiana and the Supreme Court of Louisiana both have a rich history based in the colonial governments of France and Spain during the early eighteenth century. ... Justice is pictured as blind and her daughter the Law, ought at least to be color-blind. ... Samuel Field Phillips was born in New York City on February 18, 1829, to English mathematician, James Phillips, and Judith Vermeule Phillips, of New Jersey. ...


The decision

In a 7 to 1 decision in which Mr. Justice Brewer did not participate,[1] the Court rejected Plessy's arguments based on the Thirteenth Amendment, seeing no way in which the Louisiana statute violated it. In addition, the majority of the Court rejected the view that the Louisiana law implied any inferiority of blacks, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, it contended that the law separated the two races as a matter of public policy. Amendment XIV in the National Archives The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIV) is one of the post-Civil War amendments (known as the Reconstruction Amendments), first intended to secure rights for former slaves. ...


Justice Brown finally declared, "We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it."


While the Court did not find a difference in quality between the whites-only and blacks-only railway cars, this was manifestly untrue in the case of most other separate facilities, such as public toilets and cafés, where the facilities designated for blacks were poorer than those designated for whites.


Justice John Marshall Harlan, a former slave owner who experienced a conversion as a result of Ku Klux Klan excesses, and champion of black civil rights, wrote a scathing dissent in which he predicted the court's decision would become as infamous as that in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Harlan went on to say: This is about the pre-World-War-I US Supreme Court justice; for his grandson, the mid-20th-century holder of the same position, see John Marshall Harlan II. John Marshall Harlan (June 1, 1833 – October 14, 1911) was an American Supreme Court associate justice. ... Members of the second Ku Klux Klan at a rally during the 1920s. ... Holding States do not have the right to claim an individuals property that was fairly theirs in another state. ...

But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that societys political policy. ... Caste systems are traditional, hereditary systems of social classification, that evolved due to the enormous diversity in India (where all three primary races met, not by forced slavery but by immigration). ...

As an aftermath, the case helped cement the legal foundation for the doctrine of separate but equal, the idea that segregation based on classifications was legal as long as facilities were of equal quality. However, Southern state governments refused to provide blacks with genuinely equal facilities and resources in the years after the Plessy decision. The states not only separated races but, in actuality, ensured differences in quality. In January 1896, Homer Plessy pleaded guilty to the violation and paid the fine. Separate but equal was a policy enacted into law throughout the U.S. Southern states during the period of segregation, in which African Americans and Americans of European descent would receive the same services (schools, hospitals, water fountains, bathrooms, etc. ...


Influence of Plessy v. Ferguson

Plessy legitimized the move towards segregation practices begun earlier in the South. Along with Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise address, delivered the same year, which accepted black social isolation from white society, Plessy provided an impetus for further segregation laws. In the ensuing decades, segregation statutes proliferated, reaching even to the federal government in Washington, D.C., which re-segregated during Woodrow Wilson's administration in the 1910s. Historic Southern United States. ... Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author and leader of the African American community. ... The Atlanta Compromise was an address by African-American leader Booker T. Washington on September 18, 1895. ... Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924), was the twenty-eighth President of the United States. ...


William Rehnquist wrote a memo called "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases" when he was a law clerk in 1952, during early deliberations that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In his memo, Rehnquist argued that "I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by 'liberal' colleagues but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed." He continued, "To the argument... that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are."[2][3] William Hubbs Rehnquist (October 1, 1924 – September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer, jurist, and a political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the Chief Justice of the United States. ... Holding Segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ...


See also below

This is a list of all the United States Supreme Court cases from volume 163 of the United States Reports: , 163 U.S. 1 (1896) , 163 U.S. 31 (1896) , 163 U.S. 49 (1896) , 163 U.S. 56 (1896) , 163 U.S. 63 (1896) , 163 U.S. 75 (1896... Holding Segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ... Mendez v. ... Tape v. ... It has been suggested that Meredith v. ...

Notes

  1. ^ Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) (full text in one web page)
  2. ^ Commentary: From Law Clerk to Chief Justice, He Has Slighted Rights, Rehnquist's 1952 memo sheds light on today's court, Cass R. Sunstein, Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2004
  3. ^ Memos may not hold Roberts's opinions, Boston Globe, Peter S. Canellos, August 23, 2005

References

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
  • Elliott, Mark, Color-Blind Justice: Albion Tourgée and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson (2006)of Color-Blind Justice
  • Fireside, Harvey, Separate and Unequal: Homer Plessy and the Supreme Court Decision That Legalized Racism, Carroll & Graf, New York, 2004
  • Lewis, Anthony Gideon's Trumpet
  • Medley, Keith Weldon, We As Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson, Pelican Publishing Company, March, 2003Review of We As Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson

Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... The original Wikisource logo. ...

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Plessy v. Ferguson

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