Plessy v. Ferguson

Plessy v. Ferguson, case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. The court upheld an 1890 Louisiana statute mandating racially segregated but equal railroad carriages, ruling that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution dealt with political and not social equality. The case arose from resentment among black and Creole residents of New Orleans and was supported by the railroad companies, who felt it unnecessary to pay the cost of separate cars. Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote the majority opinion, stating that "separate but equal" laws did not imply the inferiority of one race to another. Justice John Harlan (1833–1911) dissented, arguing that the U.S. Constitution was color-blind. The decision provided constitutional sanction for the adoption throughout the South of a comprehensive series of Jim Crow laws, which were maintained until overruled in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. It had particular relevance to education, with Justice Brown drawing parallels between race segregation on trains and in educational facilities.

See study by W. H. Hoffer (2012).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process
A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "The Supreme Court's Legitimization of Racism: Plessy v. Ferguson: A Case Wrongly Decided"
From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality
Michael J. Klarman.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "The Plessy Era"
Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform
Derrick Bell.
Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Plessy's Long Shadow"
Albion Tourgee: Remembering Plessy's Lawyer on the 100th Anniversary of Plessy V. Ferguson
Curtis, Michael K.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 13, No. 2, Summer 1996
Prophets with Honor: Great Dissents and Great Dissenters in the Supreme Court
Alan Barth; Alan Barth.
Knopf, 1974
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "'Our Constitution Is Color Blind': Plessy v. Ferguson, John Marshall Harlan Dissenting"
Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History
Robert P. Green Jr.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Document 81: Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)" begins on p. 157
Equal Protection
Darien A. McWhirter.
Oryx Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Plessy v. Ferguson" begins on p. 23
The Supreme Court and Social Science
Paul L. Rosen.
University of Illinois Press, 1972
Librarian’s tip: "Plessy v. Ferguson and the Court's Implicit Use of Nineteenth-Century Social Science" begins on p. 29
"A Nation of Minorities": Race, Ethnicity, and Reactionary Colorblindness
Haney Lopez, Ian F.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 59, No. 4, February 2007
Who Owns the Whip?: Chesnutt, Tourgee, and Reconstruction Justice
Hardwig, Bill.
African American Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, Spring 2002
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