In 1890, the State of Louisiana passed Act 111 that required separate accommodations for African Americans and Whites on railroads, including separate railway cars, though it specified that the accommodations must be kept "equal".
On any other day in 1892, Plessy with his pale skin color could have ridden in the car restricted to white passengers without notice. He was classified "7/8 white" or octoroon according to the language of the time. Although it is often interpreted as Plessy had only one great grandmother of African descent, both of his parents are identified as free persons of color on his birth certificate. The racial categorization is based on appearance rather than genealogy.
Hoping to strike down segregation laws, the Citizens' Committee of New Orleans (Comité des Citoyens) recruited Plessy to violate Louisiana's 1890 separate-car law. To pose a clear test, the Citizens' Committee gave advance notice of Plessy's intent to the railroad, which had opposed the law because it required adding more cars to its trains. …show more content…
The committee also hired a private detective with arrest powers to take Plessy off the train at Press and Royal streets, to ensure that he was charged with violating the state's separate-car law.
In his case, Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, Plessy argued that the state law which required East Louisiana Railroad to segregate trains had denied him his rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. 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