Plessy V. Ferguson

Homer A. Plessy v. John H. Ferguson

What was this case about?

Even though slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, racial discrimination did not end with it. States continued to make laws that blocked equal opportunities for African Americans. Homer Plessy decided to test one of those laws to see if he could change it. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy sat in the section of a railroad car that was for 'whites only.' As he expected, he was arrested after he refused to move. Judge John Howard Ferguson of Louisiana ruled against Plessy's argument that making him sit in a separate part of the train violated his constitutional rights. Plessy then took his case to the Supreme Court.

Amendments involved:

The Court made clear that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment provided no guarantee against private segregation. It would now be asked to rule on what protection the 14th Amendment offered in matters of public segregation.

Other details:

Why is this case important?

This lesson explains the impact of Plessy v. Ferguson, an important Supreme Court decision made in 1896. The Court ruled on the concept of 'separate but equal' and set back civil rights in the United States for decades to come.

What impact does this case have on us today?

The issues raised in the Plessy case are at the heart of a debate about race in America today: Whether race may be taken into account in hiring and promoting in the workplace, admission to schools, and the makeup of legislative districts. Today, arguing that race should not be used to remedy the effects of past discrimination.