Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Plessy v Ferguson 125 -- May 18, 2021

Roanoke Times, 19-May-1896

125 years ago today, on 18-May-1896, the US Supreme Court affirmed that the doctrine of separate but equal applied to railroads. This precedent was followed for many years in many situations. Justice John Marshall Harlan dissented. 

Homer Plessy was a light-skinned African American man who was part of a protest designed to get  himself arrested, much the way that Rosa Parks later got arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. 


Important Decision by the Supreme Court

In a Case to Test the Louisiana Statute
Requiring Railroads to Furnish Separate
Coaches for White and Colored Persons -- Judge Harlan In Dissenting
Says It Would Be As Reasonable to Separate Americans From Foreigners.

Washington, May 18 -- The supreme court of the United States decided today in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, that the statute of the State of Louisiana requiring railroad companies to supply separate coaches for white and colored persons is constitutional, affirming the decision of the court below. Justice Brown delivered the opinion. Justice Harlan dissented.

Justice Brown dismissed this case with a very brief opinion, merely saying that the State legislation in this case was analogous with legislation providing separate schools for colored and white children. Plessy, a mulatto, was put out of a coach on the East Louisiana railroad set apart for whites and was placed under arrest for violation of the law.

The proceeding in this court was based upon an application for a writ of prohibition against the trial of the case by Judge Ferguson, of Section A of the criminal district court for the parish of Orleans. This application was first made to the supreme court of Louisiana and was denied. Justice Brown's opinion affirmed the State court's opinion.

Justice Harlan, in his dissenting opinion, said that it would be just as reasonable to require separate coaches for Americans and foreigners, for men of Latin race and those of the Teutonic, or for men of differing views on political or religious questions, or to require that one side of the street should be set aside for whites and the other for blacks. He contended that the law was repugnant to the thirteenth amendment. Railroads were, he said, public highways to the use of which citizens are entitled.

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