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Overview: Plessy v. Ferguson
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The case of Plessy v. Ferguson established the
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Hi, I'm Christian with About.com, and today we're talking about the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson.Plessy v. Ferguson was a case tried in front of the Supreme Court of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. It established the concept of “separate but equal” based on race.
In 1892, Homer Plessy, a fair-skinned African-American man boarded a “whites-only” railroad car in protest of Louisiana's “Separate Car Act,” a statute passed that same year, which legally divided train cars by race. He was promptly arrested after refusing to move.After multiple cases in New Orleans district courts and Louisiana state courts, the case moved to the U.S. Supreme Court. Plessy's attorney argued that the law was unconstitutional. He cited the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, respectively, the amendments abolishing slavery and guaranteeing equal protection to all people within the jurisdiction of a state.The court upheld the Louisiana statute as constitutional, the majority stated that the fourteenth amendment only required legal equality, not social equality. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/464679/Plessy-v-FergusonThe lone dissenting opinion, written by Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that the true objective of the Separate Car Act "under the guise of giving equal accommodation for whites and blacks," was “to compel the latter to keep to themselves while traveling in railroad passenger coaches.” which, by nature, implied the black population was inferior.The ruling set a precedent in the U.S., primarily in the southern states, and the concept was immediately applied to areas outside of public transportation. There were soon separate schools, restaurants, movie theatres, and even drinking fountains. While the phrase states that the two races should be “separate but equal,” the equality of the black facilities during this time is still controversial. The African-American facilities were underfunded relative to the white counterparts, receiving inferior goods and services.The ruling stood until 1954, when it was struck down by the consequential Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
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