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date: 18 January 2021

Plessy v. Fergusonlocked

Landmark case of 1896 in which the United States Supreme Court established the “separate but equal” doctrine that permitted state-imposed racial segregation despite the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Kate Tuttle


In 1892, thirty-year-old shoemaker Homer Plessy refused to leave his seat on a train in New Orleans, Louisiana, beginning a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court's decision in this case, Plessy v. Ferguson, four years later permitted states to institute racially separate public accommodations. It would take nearly sixty years for the Court to reverse itself in a series of decisions beginning with Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that overturned the judicial precedent for segregation. In Gayle v. Browder (1956), the Court specifically declared segregation in public transportation unconstitutional.

The segregated public transportation system that Plessy challenged in 1892 was relatively new to New Orleans. Train cars in New Orleans were first segregated in 1860 just before the Civil War Those adorned with black stars were meant for black passengers only a difficult ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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