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Plessy v. Ferguson

(This page was developed by a Berea College student as part of a course on Chesnutt)

An Act of Louisiana, July 10, 1890:
All railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this state shall provide equal but seperate accommodations for the white and colored races.

Homer Adolph Plessy, a man of mixed-blood (7/8 Caucasian and 1/8 African), bought a ticket for the first class seats in New Orleans on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a seat in the Whites-Only coach since no one knew any different. The condutor told Plessy to take his place in the Colored-Only coach after being informed of his heritage. Plessy refused and was imprisoned for violating the July 10th Act of Louisiana.
Justice Henry Brown gave the 8-1 decision on May 18,1896 which sided against Plessy.


Justice John Marshal Harlan was the one man to disagree. In anger he wrote: " ...in the eyes 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 its citizens."
The Seperate but Equal ruling was not overturned until 1954 which was done by the Brown v. Board of Education case, fifty-eight years of seperation.
Justice Henry Brown who also served on this case said: " ...If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane."


Reference: All information on this page was found in the book: Civil Rights Decisions of the United States Supreme Court: The 19th Century.

Editors: Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert
Excellent Books. San Diego, CA. 1994.