A. Summary of the Case
The United States Supreme Court judgment in Plessy versus Ferguson was intended to demonstrate the propriety of ethnic and racial distinction under equal separation. This lawsuit began in 1892 when an African American named Homer Plessy was riding aboard a train (Locke, 2000). Homer was denied a seat in the whites-only section of the train. Plessy took his case to the Supreme Court, but it was dismissed because the Act indicated that separating whites and blacks was unconstitutional. Even though Homer’s rights were being infringed, this decision was made.
B. Case Outline
PLESSY v. FERGUSON (1896) No. 210 is a case involving race discrimination in Louisiana
Facts of the Case
The experiment’s board of trustees picked a mixed-race individual to represent the injured party, stating that the statute’s enforcement could not be done consistently since it could not differentiate between colored and white races. Homer, half white and half black, boarded a train to Louisiana at the time but sat in a compartment reserved solely for white passengers (“Plessy v. Ferguson,” 2018). When he never switched to the seat reserved for African Americans, since he broke the law of the Separate Car Act, he was arrested and charged.
In the preliminary hearing in the United States Area Court, judge John Ferguson ignored Plessy’s contestation and hinted that the protest was unlawful. Certiorari was issued by the Supreme Court of United States after the Supreme Court at the state level maintained the lower Court’s decision, and the oral argument was heard in April 1896. The Supreme Court first concluded that the law could not be applied to highway driving
History of the Case
The litigation began in 1892 with a challenge to Louisiana’s separate vehicle act of 1890. All railway operations inside the state were obliged by law to provide “equal yet differentiated facilities” for both African Americans and white passengers. Passengers were also prohibited from utilizing facilities unless they were authorized to do so depending on their race under the Act. The Citizen’s Committee was created in New Orleans in 1891 by a group of Creole experts to question the validity of the Separate Car Act. During the era of reconstruction, Albion Tourgee, a social reformer, was chosen as the committee’s legal advisor.
- The legal question, in this case, was whether, if both races’ civil and political rights are equal, one cannot be considered politically or civilly inferior to the other.
- If one race is deemed socially inferior to the other, how can the United States Constitution place the two races on the same level?
Decision or Holdings
Associate Justice Henry Brown, writing for the majority, dismissed Plessy’s plea, citing the demonstration as a violation of the United States Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment Act of 1865, which declared slavery illegal, and the Fourteenth Amendment Act, which grants African Americans full rights and equal citizenship. The Associate Justice based his decision on the 1883 Civil Rights cases Supreme Court’s decision, which stated that the African Americans oppressions in places of public entertainment, public transportation, and hotels do not constitute involuntary servitude or slavery but instead infringes on rights safeguarded by the Fourteenth Amendment (Bishop, 2017). The clashing of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Separate Car Act never occurred, as Brown contended, since it never reinstated the emblem of servitude or slavery.
Verdict and opinion (judgment)
In the case of Ferguson and Plessy, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment only protected civil and political rights like jury duty and voting, but not social rights, when it ruled separate but equal facilities on the permissibility intrastate trains in 1896. The Court dismissed that African Americans were mistreated in segregated railway carriages. The Court determined that Plessy’s core mistake was his belief that the forced distinction of the two races stigmatizes the colored races.
Plessy v. Ferguson had the effect of relegating African Americans to second-class citizens. Over the following decades, Ferguson’s decision upheld the racial segregation principle. This ruling established legal justification for segregation on buses and trains and in public buildings such as schools and hotels.
Bishop, D. W. (2017). Plessy v. Ferguson: A reinterpretation. The Progressive Era in the USA: 1890–1921, 353-361. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315237589-16
Locke, M. E. (2000). Plessy, Homer Adolph (1858?–1925), plaintiff in the 1896 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson. American National Biography Online. https://doi.org/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1100692
Plessy v. Ferguson. (2018). Eastern District of Louisiana | United States District Court. https://www.laed.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/200th/notablecases/163%20US%20537.pdf
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