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Plessy vs. Ferguson

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Plessy vs.Ferguson

     The case of Plessy vs. Ferguson started when a 30-year-old colored shoemaker named Homer Plessy was put in jail for sitting in the white car of the East Louisiana Railroad on June 7, 1892. Even though Plessy was only one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, he was considered black by Louisiana law. Plessy didn’t like this idea, and so he went to court and argued in the case of Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Lousiana that the Separate Car Act, which forced segregation of train cars, violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment was made in order to abolish slavery, while the object of the Fourteenth Amendment was to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law. The name of “Ferguson” was given to the case because the judge at the trial was named John Howard Ferguson.
     Judge Ferguson had previously declared that the Separate Car Act was unconstitutional on trains that traveled through several states, but he ruled that within the state, the state government could choose to regulate the railroad companies that operate within their respective state. The ruling was that the judge found Plessy guilty of refusing to leave the white car. Plessy proceeded to appeal to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which also found him guilty. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy’s case and found him guilty once again.
     My view on this particular case sides with Plessy rather than Ferguson. I believe in total equality and the idea of no difference between fellow human beings. There should be no distinction made between that which is for the white man, and that which is for the black man.

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Public institutions should be used by everyone together, and the act of riding a train car should not be a racial matter. I also agree that this segregation was a violation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment in that it didn’t promote the idea of equality among the races that the amendments were made for.






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Following the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the "Plessy vs. Ferguson" case in 1896, many black Americans decided to push for the equality they so rightfully deserved. One of the most significant cases regarding segregation was the case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1952, the Supreme Court was approached by four states and the District of Columbia, challenging the constitutionality of the segregation of races in the public schools. They wanted desegregation in the public school system, because the current segregation was not equal and it violated their freedoms as citizens of the United States of America.

As late as the 1950 s, society in the Southern United States remained racially segregated by law. The segregation laws in these states were supported by an 1896 Supreme Court ruling. In the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Court had ruled that "separate but equal" public facilities for blacks and whites did not violate the Constitution.

This ruling set a pattern that forced Southern black Americans to live almost totally segregated from white society. A strong civil rights movement in the United States had developed by the 1950 s, and ending segregation in public schools became one of its primary targets. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) won a legal battle to gain admission for qualified black Americans to professional and graduate schools. NAACP lawyers, led by Thurgood Marshall, then took the broader issue of segregation in public schools.

In 1954 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The case involved Linda Brown, an eight year old black girl from Topeka. Linda was required to attend an all black school 20 blocks from her home, even though there was an all white school only a few blocks away. With help from the NAACP, Linda's father, Oliver Brown, sued the Topeka Board of Education so that his daughter could attend the nearby all white school. NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall challenged the Plessy vs.

Ferguson ruling and argued that even if separate black schools were equal to white schools, black children were still suffering great psychological damage. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren announced that it was the unanimous decision of the Court that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. " Warren said that to separate grade school children "solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. " School segregation laws, therefore violated the equal protection clause of the 14 th Amendment. The "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy vs. Ferguson was overruled. Opponents of segregation hailed the Court's decision, but others denounced it as "an abuse of judicial power. " In 1955 the Supreme further ruled that the states should proceed "with all deliberate speed" to enforce the Brown ruling.

However, the desegregation of schools went slowly and met resistance by many whites. Ten years after the Brown decision, a vast majority of black students were still in segregated schools. It was not until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that the federal government was given the power to push for school desegregation. Despite slow enforcement, the Brown decision inspired civil rights leaders to work against other segregation laws. Later legal decisions led to a clearer definition of the protections offered to all Americans by the 14 th and 15 th Amendments. Bibliography:


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