Plessy vs. Ferguson, Judgement, Decided May 18, 1896; Plessy v. Ferguson , 163, #15248; Records of the Supreme Court of the United States;Record Group 267; National Archives. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Plessy v. Ferguson case, the racial climate of the South quickly worsened for African Americans. It also legitimized laws in the North requiring racial segregation such as in the Boston school segregation case noted by Justice Brown in his majority opinion. At Plessy’s trial in U.S. District Court, Judge John H. Ferguson dismissed his contention that the act was unconstitutional. The significance of the decision was that the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t unconstitutional for segregated transportation or public services, as long as they were equal. The majority opinion found that the “separate but equal” clause, specifically the separate cars in regards to the case, did not reestablish slavery or involuntary servitude. The Court rejected Plessy's lawyers' arguments that the Louisiana law inherently implied that black people were inferior, and gave great deference to American state legislatures' inherent power to make laws regulating health, safety, and morals—the "police power"—and to determine the reasonableness of the laws they passed. It served as a controlling judicial precedent until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). Seven justices formed the Court's majority and joined an opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown. Significance: The decision in Plessy v. Ferguson continued to permit public segregation under the guise of “separate but equal.” It ultimately set back civil rights in the United States and resulted in many businesses defining themselves as “serving whites only.” Plessy v. Ferguson was eventually overturned in 1954. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, and the 14th amendment granted equal protection to all under the law. On 13 April 1896, Plessy's lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that Louisiana had violated Plessy's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law. No one would be so wanting in candor as to assert the contrary. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Plessy-v-Ferguson-1896, Cornell University Law School - Legal Information Institute - Plessy v. Ferguson, Our Documents - Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Plessy v. Ferguson - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). In Plessy v.Ferguson the Court infamously ruled it was within constitutional boundaries for the state of Louisiana to enforce racial segregation in public facilities. The effect of the law, he argued, was to interfere with the personal liberty and freedom of movement of both African Americans and whites. One was signed by Albion W. Tourgée and James C. Walker and the other by Samuel F. Phillips and his legal partner F. D. McKenney. The Creole, or 'gens de couleur libres,' freed descendants of African mothers and white fathers, created ambiguity in racial segregation laws. "[32] Harlan's concerns about the encroachment on the 14th Amendment would prove well-founded; states proceeded to institute segregation-based laws that became known as the Jim Crow system. 5/18/1896. In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case. Plessy v. Ferguson A case in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregated, "equal but separate" public accommodations for blacks and whites did not violate the 14th amendment. Tourgée argued that the reputation of being a black man was "property", which, by the law, implied the inferiority of African Americans as compared to whites. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The 1896 landmark Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson established that the policy of “separate but equal” was legal and states could pass laws requiring segregation of the races. [51], "Plessy" redirects here. Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, Inyo County v. Paiute-Shoshone Indians of the Bishop Community, Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee. After this, Jim Crow laws, which were a system of laws meant to discriminate against African Americans, spread across the U.S. For decades, any type of public facility could be legally separated into 'whites only' and 'blacks only.' Plessy then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case. The thing to accomplish was, under the guise of giving equal accommodation for whites and blacks, to compel the latter to keep to themselves while traveling in railroad passenger coaches. In 1890 a new Louisiana law required railroads to provide “equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored, races.” Outraged, the black community in New Orleans decided to test the rule. [49] The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided for federal oversight and enforcement of voter registration and voting. [19] The state legal brief was prepared by Attorney General Milton Joseph Cunningham of Natchitoches and New Orleans. 1, National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plessy_v._Ferguson&oldid=1001755865, African-American history between emancipation and the civil rights movement, History of racial segregation in the United States, Passenger rail transportation in Louisiana, United States Supreme Court cases of the Fuller Court, Overruled United States Supreme Court decisions, Wikipedia pending changes protected pages, Short description is different from Wikidata, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, The "separate but equal" provision of private services mandated by state government is constitutional under the, Brown, joined by Fuller, Field, Gray, Shiras, White, Peckham. In answering the charge that segregation perpetuated race prejudice, the Massachusetts court famously stated: "This prejudice, if it exists, is not created by law, and probably cannot be changed by law. 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