Plessy v. Ferguson Summary |
Articles,  Blog

Plessy v. Ferguson Summary |

– [Narrator] After the Civil War, the United States embarked
on an era of reconstruction during which the country grappled with the painful history of slavery. The 13th, 14th, and 15th
Amendments to the Constitution sought to eradicate the taint
of slavery by outlawing it, and guaranteeing black
citizens equal treatment under the law and the right to vote. However, there was a lot of
resistance to racial equality, particularly in the south. By the 1870s reconstruction
had fizzled out giving way to the Jim Crow era. Named after the minstrel
show Jump Jim Crow, this period was defined
by racial segregation laws passed by southern states. Plessy versus Ferguson
is the now infamous case in which the United States Supreme Court declared it constitutional
for races to be kept separate. In 1892 Homer Plessy took a trip. He bought a first class
ticket, got onto the trian, and settled in one of the coaches. The conductor told Plessy to
move to a different coach, but he refused. So Plessy was thrown off the
train and into a jail cell. Under an 1890 state law
railways within Louisiana were required to have “equal but separate” coaches for black and white passengers. Anyone refusing to sit
in the assigned coach could be fined $25 or
imprisoned for up to 20 days. As a U.S. citizen who was
7/8 white and 1/8 black, Plessy argued that he was
white and deserved to sit in the coach reserved
for white passengers. However, under Louisiana law
Plessy was considered black. So Plessy was put on trial in state court for breaking the law by
sitting in the wrong coach. At trial Plessy argued that
the law was unconstitutional, but the government disagreed. Judge Ferguson sided with the government. If convicted Plessy would
be sentenced to prison and charged a fine. Plessy asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition
against Judge Ferguson to prevent him from enforcing the law. But the Louisiana Supreme Court found the law constitutional. So Plessy asked for writ of error from the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the case to determine whether
Louisiana law requiring racially segregated railway
coaches was constitutional. Writing for the majority
Justice Brown concluded that the law didn’t
violate the 14th Amendment. The Amendment was designed
to make everyone equal under the law, but it
wasn’t intended to eliminate distinctions based on race. The majority thought
that political equality of the races wasn’t
compromised by segregation. State laws creating racially
segregated facilities thus didn’t violate the
equal protection clause if those facilities were
“separate but equal.” Laws requiring segregation
could be legitimate exercises of state police power provided they were reasonable
and based on good faith rather than racist motives. Here, Louisiana was
simply respecting the fact that the two races preferred
remaining segregated. In other words, it wasn’t the laws job, or even within the laws power
to force the races to mix. The court also found
that the 13th Amendment, which Plessy argued was
violated by the Louisiana law, was a non-issue because
the case had nothing to do with abolishing slavery
or involuntary servitude. Therefore, the court affirmed the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision. In a powerful dissent Justice Harlan found that the Louisiana law was discriminatory, because it sought to keep black passengers from coaches reserved
for white passengers. Harlan stated that the
law was clearly intended to keep black people
away from white people. This was a violation of civil rights. Harlan said the
Constitution is color-blind, and a state couldn’t
constitutionally deprive citizens of their rights based on their races. For Justice Harlan the majorities decision was like the Supreme Court’s
infamous self-inflicted wound in Dred Scott versus Sandford. Harlan thought Plessy
would foster animosity, and basically predicted
that it would be overturned. Harlan would have found the
Louisiana law unconstitutional. It’s worth noting, however,
that as progressive as Justice Harlan’s views were, he didn’t believe in equal
rights for all mankind. His dissent distinguished Chinese people, and he didn’t quibble with the exclusion of the Chinese race from citizenship. The Supreme Court’s decision
in Plessy versus Ferguson justified racial discrimination
in the United States based on the separate but equal doctrine. In 1954, Plessy was finally overturned by Brown versus Board
of Education of Topeka.


  • Banana Wizard

    I’m debating against another person in my history class from the black perspective with this case. This video definitely gets me through this and I love it!

  • Roma Liya

    Thanks for the vedio.. I skipped the chapter then decided to watch or read something online regarding this case.. Turns out this is actually interesting!

  • Taylor Tate

    here is a chat story about the minority and majority arguments in the supreme court decision #Share #KnowledgeIsPower

  • Nsimms

    Justice Harlan did not believe that black and white people were equal. When dissenting he said "the white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power" he believed the white race was superior, but it was not the Constitution's job to reflect that

  • Anthony PC

    Great video.
    disgusting how stupidly racist even the most elite minds were in the past 100 years… I guess it's not like our mental hardware has evolved in that time. the minds that making important decisions in our government today have the same capacity for dogmatic fallacious reasoning.

  • livi Is A LUvLy_BxBy

    I think it's good. But what I don't like about the kids at my school is that some of them just give me a feeling of even though they are coloured or another culture, they still say Blacks are treated equally to this day( false)

  • NotYourTypicalNegro

    All the history lessons fail to point out this was a Republican majority Court, will they Republican writing the majority opinion. It was Republicans that made Jim Crow the law of the land.

  • Mr. Reddit27


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *