Subversive Historian – 01/14/09

Plessy vs. Ferguson

One-hundred and thirteen years ago on this day in people’s history, the Supreme Court of the United States legitimized “separate but equal” segregationist policies. On January 14th, 1896 justices returned an 8-1 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that a Louisiana law separating whites and blacks on interstate railroads was constitutional. Homer Plessy was a black man who on June 7th, 1892 attempted to board a white-only railroad car as the one for blacks was full. For this supposed transgression of the law, he was removed and arrested. In the subsequent legal challenge, Plessy argued that his thirteenth and fourteenth amendment rights were violated. The High Court disgracefully decided otherwise as Justice Henry Billings Brown authored in the opinion that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them on the same plane.”

The landmark decision in Plessy v. Ferguson paved the way for Jim Crow to reign with impunity for the decades to come until the civil rights movement legally derailed it.


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