Plessy vs Ferguson

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On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the "White" car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy could easily pass for white but under Louisiana law, he was considered black despite the fact that he was only 1/8th African American. When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts. Plessy deliberately sat in the white section and identified himself as black. He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Plessy's lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case and held the Louisiana segregation statute constitutional. Speaking for a seven-man majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: "A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races.” The Court ruled that, while the object of the Fourteenth Amendment was to create "absolute equality of the two races before the law," such equality extended only so far as political and civil rights (voting and serving on juries) not "social rights.” As Justice Henry Brown put it, "if one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane." The Court held that the Thirteenth Amendment applied only to the imposition of slavery itself. Justice John Marshall Harlan said that "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." Until the mid-twentieth century, the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling supported racial segregation in public places. It is well known that the black facilities were inferior to white ones, creating...
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