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Plessy vs. Ferguson is a significant case in the world history since it gave a legal jurisdiction for racial segregation in the United States for more than five decades. In the past, the Black Americans faced discrimination from their White counterparts (Davis, 2012, p. 39). Indeed, the Americans had passed laws that insinuated that black people were an inferior race. The effort of the Black Americans to fight for equality bore no fruits for an extended period. Sometimes, the Americans physically abused the Blacks, oppressed them, and reminded them that their race was inferior. Consequently, this paper will highlight the Plessy vs. Ferguson case whose decision had a significant impact on the racial policy between the Reconstruction period and the Civil Rights Movement.
The cause of the Plessy vs. Ferguson case began in 1890 when the state of Louisiana passed the “Separate Car Act.” The law advocated for separate cars for the Black and the White people on the railroads. In fact, according to the law, the Blacks and the Whites received separate services under the “separate but equal” phrase. Under the principle mentioned above, the Blacks and the Whites could access separate but purportedly equal public facilities and services. Nevertheless, many states exaggerated the racism in other disciplines such as the learning institutions, cafeterias, lavatories, playgrounds, and even water fountains (Davis, 2012, p. 40). Notably, most of the public installations meant for the Blacks did not meet the standards for the Whites. In fact, the Black Americans had low-quality amenities.
The “Separate Car Act” law faced opposition from many people, especially the Blacks. A civil rights activist group decided to challenge the amendment of the law in the Supreme Court. Hence, the group hatched a plan to have one citizen arrested so that they could overturn the rule that isolated the black people. In 1892, the activist group chose Homer Plessy as their test case. Plessy was seven eighths European, and an eighth African. Undeniably, Plessy was a mixed race citizen. However, according to the law, Plessy was an African, and so could only ride in a “black only” car. For this reason, the civic group bought Plessy a ticket, sat in a white car, but the detectives arrested him for violating the ‘Separate Car Act”. The detectives arraigned Plessy at the state level court. In the trial, Plessy’s lawyers argued that the detectives had violated the 13th and the 14th amendments that allowed for equal treatment under the law. Unfortunately, John Howard Ferguson ruled that Louisiana was just to govern the railroads that functioned within the state limitations. Consequently, Ferguson found Plessy guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine of 25 US Dollars (Davis, 2012, p. 41).
The Plessy vs. Ferguson lawsuit is a significant case in the world history since it reveals the extent to which the White People made laws that isolated the Black Americans. Fundamentally, slavery in the United States ended in 1865. However, the Black people continued to face racial discrimination until the late 1900s. Additionally, the case gave the African Americans the zeal to fight for justice. Particularly, the civil rights group stage-managed the case by buying a ticket for Plessy, who intentionally used the White man’s car. The primary objective of that decision was to compel the court to amend that segregation law. It is significant to note that the case exposes the kinds of crimes against humanity that the Whites subjected the African Americans.
The committee of citizens appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, but Justice Charles Fener upheld the ruling of Judge Ferguson. In 1896, the civil activist group appealed the case again in the United States Supreme Court. Plessy still maintained that the state of Louisiana had violated his rights under articles 13th and 14th of the constitution. The justices on the Supreme Court dismissed Plessy’s allegations in a 7-1 decision (Davis, 2012, p. 45). The Justices stated that the state of Louisiana had the right to make public policy involving racial discrimination as long as the facilities were “Separate but equal”. Further, the Justices made it clear that the Louisiana laws did not imply the Blacks as an inferior race. Even though the statutes categorically advocated for the separate but equal provision of the amenities, it was evident that the Blacks received low standard facilities. The Supreme Court annulled the racial segregation law in 1954, in the hearing of Brown vs. Board of Education.
- Davis, T. J. (2012). Plessy v. Ferguson. Santa Barbara, Calif, Greenwood.