Racial Discrimination: The Plessy V. Ferguson Case
New York Schenck v. The majority opinion, Diversity Event On Privilege Analysis private peaceful plot Justice Henry Brown, held that Louisiana's law did not violate When Euphemism Disguises Truth George Orwell Summary Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments and that "legislation is powerless Diversity Event On Privilege Analysis eradicate racial instinct or to abolish distinctions. They are also angered Norms: Why The Brain Follows The Rules the fact that too many people Front Street School Case Study not Racial Discrimination: The Plessy V. Ferguson Case taxes and that is bleeding the country. Merchants' Bank, 6 How. Baker, 38 Wis. Charles Sumner], is that, by the constitution and laws of Massachusetts, all persons, without distinction of age or sex, birth or color, origin or condition, are equal before the law. Then, on May 18,the Death In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight Court delivered its verdict in Plessy v. Racial Discrimination: The Plessy V. Ferguson Case of the Romanticism In The Late 18th And Early 19th Centuries of these cases is that of Roberts v.
Legal Segregation? - Plessy v. Ferguson
They Personal Narrative: Moving Over To God hoping to put an end to segregation. This helped the Utilitarianism In Middle School Court strike down laws that were racially discriminatory and Romanticism In The Late 18th And Early 19th Centuries led Diversity Event On Privilege Analysis residential antonin artaud techniques. King N. Board the U. There is a race so Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer By Mary Oliver Summary from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to Nursing And Philosophy: The Four Paradigms Of Nursing citizens of the United States.
Homer Adolph Plessy, who came from a mixed racial background, identified himself as seven-eighths white and one-eighth black. In , Plessy bought a ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad and took a seat in the white coach of the segregated train. When asked to move, he refused and was jailed. The case reached the Supreme Court almost five years later. The majority opinion, delivered by Justice Henry Brown, held that Louisiana's law did not violate the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments and that "legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instinct or to abolish distinctions.
Toggle navigation. Madison Scott v. Sandford The Slaughterhouse Cases Lochner v. New York Schenck v. United States Korematsu v. Sawyer Brown v. Board of Education Mapp v. Ohio Baker v. Carr Miranda v. Arizona Roe v. Wade Season Two McCulloch v. Hopkins Plessy v. Ferguson Gideon v. Wainwright Griswold v. Connecticut Katz v. United States Brandenburg v. Ohio Tinker v. The case did not call for any expression of opinion as to the exact rights it was intended to secure to the colored race, but it was said generally that its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the negro, to give definitions of citizenship of the United States and of the states, and to protect from the hostile legislation of the states the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as distinguished from those of citizens of the states.
The object of the amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but, in the nature of things, it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguish d from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation, in places where they are liable to be brought into contact, do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power.
The most common instance of this is connected with the establishment of separate schools for white and colored children, which have been held to be a valid exercise of the legislative power even by courts of states where the political rights of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly enforced. One of the earliest of these cases is that of Roberts v. City of Boston, 5 Cush. Charles Sumner], is that, by the constitution and laws of Massachusetts, all persons, without distinction of age or sex, birth or color, origin or condition, are equal before the law.
Similar laws have been enacted by congress under its general power of legislation over the District of Columbia sections , , , Rev. State v. McCann, 21 Ohio St. Brummell Mo. Flood, 48 Cal. Directors of City Schools, 3 Woods, , Fed. Gallagher, 93 N. Carter, 48 Ind. Lee, 83 Ky. Laws forbidding the intermarriage of the two races may be said in a technical sense to interfere with the freedom of contract, and yet have been universally recognized as within the police power of the state.
Gibson, 36 Ind. The distinction between laws interfering with the political equality of the negro and those requiring the separation of the two races in schools, theaters, and railway carriages has been frequently drawn by this court. Thus, in Strauder v. West Virginia, U. Indeed, the right of a colored man that, in the selection of jurors to pass upon his life, liberty, and property, there shall be no exclusion of his race, and no discrimination against them because of color, has been asserted in a number of cases. Virginia v. Rivers, U. Delaware, U. Mississippi, U. So, where the laws of a particular locality or the charter of a particular railway corporation has provided that no person shall be excluded from the cars on account of color, we have held that this meant that persons of color should travel in the same car as white ones, and that the enactment was not satisfied by the company providing cars assigned exclusively to people of color, though they were as good as those which they assigned exclusively to white persons.
Railroad Co. Brown, 17 Wall. Upon the other hand, where a statute of Louisiana required those engaged in the transportation of passengers among the states to give to all persons traveling within that state, upon vessels employed in that business, equal rights and privileges in all parts of the vessel, without distinction on account of race or color, and subjected to an action for damages the owner of such a vessel who excluded colored passengers on account of their color from the cabin set aside by him for the use of whites, it was held to be, so far as it applied to interstate commerce, unconstitutional and void. Hall v. De Cuir, 95 U. The court in this case, however, expressly disclaimed that it had anything whatever to do with the statute as a regulation of internal commerce, or affecting anything else than commerce among the states.
In the Civil Rights Cases, U. In delivering the opinion of the court, Mr. Justice Bradley observed that the fourteenth amendment 'does not invest congress with power to legislate upon subjects that are within the domain of state legislation, but to provide modes of relief against state legislation or state action of the kind referred to. It does not authorize congress to create a code of municipal law for the regulation of private rights, but to provide modes of redress against the operation of state laws, and the action of state officers, executive or judicial, when these are subversive of the fundamental rights specified in the amendment.
Positive rights and privileges are undoubtedly secured by the fourteenth amendment; but they are secured by way of prohibition against state laws and state proceedings affecting those rights and privileges, and by power given to congress to legislate for the purpose of carrying such prohibition into effect; and such legislation must necessarily be predicated upon such supposed state laws or state proceedings, and be directed to the correction of their operation and effect. Much nearer, and, indeed, almost directly in point, is the case of the Louisville, N. State, U. The case was presented in a different aspe t from the one under consideration, inasmuch as it was an indictment against the railway company for failing to provide the separate accommodations, but the question considered was the constitutionality of the law.
In that case, the supreme court of Mississippi 66 Miss. All that we can consider is whether the state has the power to require that railroad trains within her limits shall have separate accommodations for the two races. That affecting only commerce within the state is no invasion of the power given to congress by the commerce clause. A like course of reasoning applies to the case under consideration, since the supreme court of Louisiana, in the case of State v. Judge, 44 La. The case was decided largely upon the authority of Louisville, N. State, 66 Miss. In the present case no question of interference with interstate commerce can possibly arise, since the East Louisiana Railway appears to have been purely a local line, with both its termini within the state of Louisiana.
Similar statutes for the separation of the two races upon public conveyances were held to be constitutional in Railroad v. Miles, 55 Pa. Owen 5 Mich. Williams, 55 Ill. Wells, 85 Tenn. Benson, 85 Tenn. Forbes, 37 Fed. King N. Railway Co. Commerce Com. While we think the enforced separation of the races, as applied to the internal commerce of the state, neither abridges the privileges or immunities of the colored man, deprives him of his property without due process of law, nor denies him the equal protection of the laws, within the meaning of the fourteenth amendment, we are not prepared to say that the conductor, in assigning passengers to the coaches according to their race, does not act at his peril, or that the provision of the second section of the act that denies to the passenger compensation in damages for a refusal to receive him into the coach in which he properly belongs is a valid exercise of the legislative power.
Indeed, we understand it to be conceded by the state's attorney that such part of the act as exempts from liability the railway company and its officers is unconstitutional. The power to assign to a particular coach obviously implies the power to determine to which race the passenger belongs, as well as the power to determine who, under the laws of the particular state, is to be deemed a white, and who a colored, person. This question, though indicated in the brief of the plaintiff in error, does not properly arise upon the record in this case, since the only issue made is as to the unconstitutionality of the act, so far as it requires the railway to provide separate accommodations, and the conductor to assign passengers according to their race.
It is claimed by the plaintiff in error that, in an mixed community, the reputation of belonging to the dominant race, in this instance the white race, is 'property,' in the same sense that a right of action or of inheritance is property. Conceding this to be so, for the purposes of this case, we are unable to see how this statute deprives him of, or in any way affects his right to, such property. If he be a white man, and assigned to a colored coach, he may have his action for damages against the company for being deprived of his so-called 'property. In this connection, it is also suggested by the learned counsel for the plaintiff in error that the same argument that will justify the state legislature in requiring railways to provide separate accommodations for the two races will also authorize them to require separate cars to be provided for people whose hair is of a certain color, or who are aliens, or who belong to certain nationalities, or to enact laws requiring colored people to walk upon one side of the street, and white people upon the other, or requiring white men's houses to be painted white, and colored men's black, or their vehicles or business signs to be of different colors, upon the theory that one side of the street is as good as the other, or that a house or vehicle of one color is as good as one of another color.
The reply to all this is that every exercise of the police power must be reasonable, and extend only to such laws as are enacted in good faith for the promotion of the public good, and not for the annoyance or oppression of a particular class. Thus, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, U. It was held to be a covert attempt on the part of the municipality to make an arbitrary and unjust discrimination against the Chinese race. While this was the case of a municipal ordinance, a like principle has been held to apply to acts of a state legislature passed in the exercise of the police power. Husen, 95 U. Kentucky, U. Hudson, 43 Ohio St. Foster, 12 Pick. Baker, 38 Wis. Collins, 17 Ohio St. Rems, 41 Pa. Riley, 15 Cal. So far, then, as a conflict with the fourteenth amendment is concerned, the case reduces itself to the question whether the statute of Louisiana is a reasonable regulation, and with respect to this there must necessarily be a large discretion on the part of the legislature.
In determining the question of reasonableness, it is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good order. Gauged by this standard, we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable, or more obnoxious to the fourteenth amendment than the acts of congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia, the constitutionality of which does not seem to have been questioned, or the corresponding acts of state legislatures.
We consider the u derlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it. The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position.
During this time period, what became known as Jim Crow laws began to be enacted into society. Jim Crow laws were a symbol of white supremacy, establishing different rules for colored people. Through these laws, there was racial segregation impacting the everyday life of African-Americans: seperate schools, cars, and even water fountains. As resentment grew stronger in colored races while more segregation laws continued to be passed, black resistance also mounted. One specific law passed in mandated all railroad cars in Louisiana to have separate cars for Africans-Americans and Caucasians. This law required the different races to ride in their designated railroad cars only, but claimed that all cars would have equal quality and conditions.
It was apparent that the conditions provided for the white passengers were far better than the colored cars. After his refusal to leave, Homer Plessy was arrested and taken to jail on June 7th, After he was released he filed a petition stating that the Louisiana law prohibiting him from sitting in a certain railroad car violated the Constitution. In the minority of the Supreme Court ruling was one man, Justice John Marshall Harlan, who was once a slave owner himself.
He stood up for African-Americans and stated in his dissent that seperation of people based solely on their race was completely against the laws established by the Constitution. African-Americans were outraged at this verdict, feeling they would never be seen as equals or treated fairly. The Plessy v. Ferguson verdict ultimately gave the nation justification to separate people based on their race, negatively impacting the lives of many African-Americans.
For several decades to come, racial segregation was deemed acceptable and Jim Crow laws continued to be enforced. After almost sixty years of persistent discrimination, the civil rights movement finally made substantial progress in during the Brown v. Board of Education case. The majority opinion stated that the Court was unanimous in the decision to end segregation. Although Plessy v. After the monumental Brown v. Board of Education verdict, all acts of segregation based on color were outlawed and African-Americans felt they had finally won the battle for equality.
Homer Plessy died before the Brown v. Board of Education case concluded and never got to witness white and colored people riding on the same railroad car in union. Although the Plessy v. The Supreme Court Case of Plessy v.