Plessy v. Ferguson Facts

Plessy v. Ferguson Facts
Plessy v. Ferguson was a landmark 1896 United States Supreme Court decision that had wide ranging implications regarding the legality of racial segregation, which it essentially ruled as legal as long as the segregated facilities in question were of equal quality. The ruling, which became known as "separate but equal," legitimize the Jim Crow laws of the southern states in the early twentieth century. The case came about when a group of New Orleans residents decided to test a 1890 Louisiana law that mandated segregation on passenger railways by having a mixed race man named Homer Plessy sit in the whites only section. Plessy was arrested but fought his case in the Louisiana courts, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment mandated that all American citizens receive equal treatment under the law. The judge, John Howard Ferguson, ruled that state had the right to regulate business as they saw fit. Plessy and his backers took the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court and eventually the United States Supreme Court, where they lost in a 7-1 decision.
Interesting Plessy v. Ferguson Facts:
The name of the organization that funded Plessy's legal fight was Comité des Citoyens, or Committee of Citizens in English.
Although Plessy was considered black or colored at the time, like many residents of New Orleans he was racially mixed and only of about 1/8 African ancestry.
Homer Plessy was born a "free person of color," as his parents were creoles refugees from Haiti who fled the violence of the revolution in that country and the persecution creoles often faced at the hands of the black majority.
Since Plessy could have, and often did "pass" as white, the Committee of Citizens announced ahead of time what they were doing and hired detective to make the arrest.
Although the Supreme Court ruled that any segregated facilities should be of equal quality, black facilities were usually inferior and there was never any enforcement to make sure they were equal.
The majority opinion was written by Justice Henry Billings Brown.
Justice John Marshal Harlan was the lone dissenter and although he believed in a colorblind constitution and equal political rights for black Americans, he took a paternalistic attitude toward race that was popular at the time, writing in his dissent: "The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. . . I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty."
Despite being a landmark decision with far-ranging ramifications that affected the United States for decades, Plessy v. Ferguson attracted little media or scholarly attention when it was issued.
Plessy died on March 1, 1925 in Metairie, Louisiana at the age of sixty-two.
Although Plessy v. Ferguson was never officially overturned by the Supreme Court, Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954) essentially ruled that racial segregation was unconstitutional.

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