Plessy vs. Ferguson

By: Sarah Kroth |

Plessy vs. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537) was a 1896 Supreme Court case that tested the legality of the new “separate but equal” laws in the South, and probed the meaning behind the Fourteenth Amendment.

Homer Plessy, the African American defendant, was a part of the Citizens’ Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law, which set out to test the Louisiana’s Separate Car Act of 1890. Plessy entered the Whites Only car, informed the conductor that he was in fact black, albeit only 7/8 black, and then when they told him to leave, he refused and was arrested.

The case reached all the way up to the Supreme Court, where they ruled that it was indeed constitutional to have separate facilities for blacks and whites, as long as they were “equal.” This ruling became the justification for many southern Jim Crow laws. Starting in the 1930s, and led by the NAACP, a number of cases started to challenge the precedence of Plessy vs. Ferguson, many of which Thurgood Marshall had some hand in.

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