The lone dissenter, Kentuckian and former slave owner Justice John Marshall Harlan, denied that a legislature could differentiate on the basis of race with regard to civil rights.
He wrote: “The white race deems itself to be the dominant race,” but the Constitution recognizes “no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens.” Harlan continued: “Our Constitution is color-blind…. In respect of civil rights all citizens are equal before the law.” The Court’s majority opinion, he pointed out, gave power to the states “to place in a condition of legal inferiority a large body of American citizens.”
Following the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, restrictive legislation based on race continued and expanded steadily, and its reasoning was not overturned until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Plessy vs. Ferguson Essay examples
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Plessy vs. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson , a very important case of 1896 in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the legality of racial segregation. At the time of the ruling, segregation between blacks and whites already existed in most schools, restaurants, and other public facilities in the American South. In the Plessy decision, the Supreme Court ruled that such segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This amendment provides equal protection of the law to all U.S. citizens, regardless of race. The court ruled in Plessy that racial segregation was legal as long as the separate facilities for blacks and whites were “equal.”
This “separate but equal” doctrine, as it…show more content…
As a result, segregation gradually spread. By the mid-1890s railroad cars and other forms of public transportation had become segregated in a number of southern states.
The Plessy case grew out of a careful strategy to test the legality of a Louisiana law passed in 1890 that required railroads to maintain separate train cars for blacks and whites. In September 1891 a group of blacks in New Orleans, Louisiana, formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law and raised $3000 to mount a formal challenge to segregation in Louisiana. Albion Tourgee, then the nation’s best-known white advocate of black legal rights, agreed to argue the case free of charge.
In June 1892 Homer A. Plessy bought a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad and sat in the car designated for whites only. Plessy was of mixed African and European ancestry, and he looked white. Because the Citizens Committee wanted to challenge the segregation law in court, it alerted railroad officials that Plessy would be sitting in the whites only car, even though he was partly of African descent. Plessy was arrested and brought to court for arraignment before Judge John H. Ferguson of the U.S. District Court in Louisiana. Plessy then attempted to halt the trial by suing Ferguson on the grounds that the segregation law was unconstitutional.
In 1896 Plessy’s challenge reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where Tourgee argued that segregation violated