PLESSY v. FERGUSON

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
210
Petitioner 
Plessy
Respondent 
Ferguson
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The state of Louisiana enacted a law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy--who was seven-eighths Caucasian--took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested.

Question 

Is Louisiana's law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Ferguson, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: US Const. Amend 14, Section 1

No, the state law is within constitutional boundaries. The majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown, upheld state-imposed racial segregation. The justices based their decision on the separate-but-equal doctrine, that separate facilities for blacks and whites satisfied the Fourteenth Amendment so long as they were equal. (The phrase, "separate but equal" was not part of the opinion.) Justice Brown conceded that the 14th amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law. But Brown noted that "in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either." In short, segregation does not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination.

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PLESSY v. FERGUSON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 24 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1895/1895_210>.
PLESSY v. FERGUSON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1895/1895_210 (last visited April 24, 2014).
"PLESSY v. FERGUSON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 24, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1895/1895_210.