By the end of this section, friend will:Explain just how various factors contributed to continually and readjust in the “New South” indigenous 1877 to 1898

Suggested Sequencing

Use this Narrative v the Ida B. Wells and also the Campaign against Lynching Narrative and the Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law,” 1893 Primary resource to have actually students comment on the concerns that african Americans challenged after Reconstruction and through the beginning of the twentieth century.

You are watching: Which best explains why the supreme court’s decision in plessy v. ferguson was unconstitutional?

It was not until after the U.S. Can be fried Court’s now notorious decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, upholding one 1890 rail segregation statute in Louisiana and also finding that separate accommodations for the races nevertheless can be equal, the segregation legislations spread throughout the united States. ~ the decision, state legislatures spreading segregation statutes that expanded to schools, churches, housing, jobs, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, orphanages, prisons, essentially all develops of publicly transportation, and sports and also recreation. That is commonly thought that racial segregation had actually been the standing quo in the South since the time of slavery, however as W. E. B. Du Bois sharp out, a rigid segregation code might not exist under slavery since the races to be in near proximity much of the time. Instead, it was a horrific invention of the later nineteenth century.

Louisiana, and also especially brand-new Orleans v its Spanish and French background and sizable populace of totally free blacks the wealth and also stature, had permitted the most free intermingling in between the gyeongju of any type of state in the South. It is no surprising, therefore, that as soon as a bill requiring distinction on railroad cars to be introduced right into the Louisiana state legislature in 1890, there was vigorous opposition come it. However, the bill was passed.

The black neighborhood members who had actually protested the law went on to kind the citizens Committee to check the Constitutionality of the Separate auto Law and built up money to carry a test case. Albion W. Tourgée, one upstate brand-new York lawyer who was one of the founders of the biracial citizens Equal rights League, supported this citizens’ group. Tourgée offered to direct the instance without fee and also was named lead counsel. James C. Walker, a white criminal lawyer in brand-new Orleans, was brought on as neighborhood counsel in the case.

In seeking a test instance for the law, Tourgée insisted on a plaintiff who was “nearly white.” Homer Plessy, the favored plaintiff, was “seven-eighths” white and also presented as a white man, despite in Louisiana, that was thought about legally black. On June 7, 1892, Plessy boarded a passenger train with a first-class ticket to a destination within Louisiana. He satellite in a railroad automobile reserved for whites and also refused to move to the auto reserved for “Negroes” as soon as asked to execute so. Plessy was arrested and imprisoned in county jail. He was tried in the criminal ar court of brand-new Orleans in November 1892 and convicted, over the objections that his attorney, who suggested that the Louisiana state violated the federal Constitution. Plessy’s lawyers appealed come the supreme Court the Louisiana, arguing that the statute violated both the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Louisiana supreme Court refuse both claims, and Plessy’s team then appealed to the supreme Court, i beg your pardon agreed come hear the case.

The opposing political parties presented oral argument starting April 13, 1896. The supreme Court’s decision came on may 18, 1896, virtually four years after Plessy’s arrest. Justice Henry Billings Brown, composing for the Court, upheld the validity that the Louisiana statute, with only Justice man Marshall Harlan dissenting.

The issue facing the Court in Plessy was whether a Louisiana statute offering for equal yet separate railway accommodations for white and black passenger violated the Thirteenth and also Fourteenth Amendments. The Court treated every constitutional question separately.

The majority opinion dismissed Plessy’s case that the Louisiana state violated the Thirteenth Amendment, holding the the state did no impose a argorial of slavery on the plaintiff. The Court discovered that a “statute which implies merely a legal difference between the white and also colored gyeongju . . . Has actually no tendency to destroy the legit equality the the 2 races, or reestablish a state the involuntary servitude.”

On the Fourteenth amendment question, the majority conceded the the thing of the Amendment was to obtrude “political” equality the the races “before the law.” but the Court then advanced two sweeping propositions. First, it claimed that the Fourteenth revised “could not have been intended come abolish differentiate based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling the the 2 races upon state unsatisfactory come either.” Second, the Court said that legislations requiring segregation of the two races did no necessarily imply inferiority of either.

Expanding top top the latter point, justice Brown found “the underlying fallacy” that the plaintiff’s debate consisted “in the presumption that the imposed separation that the two races stamps the fancy race with a argorial of inferiority. If this be so, that is no by reason of anything uncovered in the act, but solely due to the fact that the colored gyeongju chooses to placed that building upon it.”

The Court also found that although the Fourteenth amendment granted civil and also political equality, that did no secure “social equality.” The Court organized that the Louisiana legislation was a reasonable regulation and also that it was within the discretion the the state legislature come “preserv . . . The public tranquility and great order.” that went on,

Gauged by this standard, we cannot say that a law which authorizes or also requires the separation the the two races in windy conveyances is unreasonable, or much more obnoxious to the Fourteenth Amendment than the plot of congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the ar of Columbia, the constitutionality of which does no seem to have actually been questioned, or the corresponding acts that state legislatures.

The Court climate turned the concern of due process. This to be the factor Tourgée had actually selected a “nearly white” plaintiff because that his check case. His brief said that the reputation of gift white was a home of good pecuniary value, “the master-key the unlocks the golden door of opportunity.” indigenous this premise, Tourgée suggested that the Louisiana statute authorizing the railroad officials “to entrust a human to a car set aside for a certain race” deprived the passenger the his property without due procedure of law. The Court responded to this argument by finding the “we are unable to see exactly how this state deprives of, or in any method affects his ideal to, together property. If he it is in a white man and assigned to a fancy coach, the may have actually his activity for damages against the firm for being deprived of his so-called property. Upon the various other hand, if he be a fancy man and be so assigned, he has actually been deprived that no property, because he is not lawfully entitled to the reputation of gift a white man.”

In his dissent Justice Harlan pointed out the outcomes of the Court’s decision:

What can much more certainly arouse gyeongju hate, what can much more certainly create and perpetuate a feeling of distrust in between these races, than state enactments i beg your pardon in reality proceed top top the ground the colored citizens are so inferior and also degraded that they cannot be permitted to sit in publicly coaches occupied by white citizens?

Harlan believed the Louisiana statute to be “inconsistent not just with the equality of civil liberties which pertains to citizenship, National and also States, yet with the an individual liberty appreciated by anyone within the unified States.”


Supreme Court Justice man M. Harlan was the lone dissenter in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case.

Harlan likewise reiterated his id that the Thirteenth modification “not only struck under the school of slavery as previously existed in the unified States, yet it stays clear of the imposition of any type of burdens or disabilities the constitute title of slavery or servitude. The decreed global civil freedom in this country.” that went on to famously write:

The white race deems itself to it is in the leading race in this country. And also so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, ns doubt not, it will proceed to be for all time, if it continues to be true come its great heritage, and also holds rapid to the principles of constitution liberty. However in see of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling course of citizens. Over there is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of polite rights, every citizens room equal prior to the law.

In response to the majority’s dismissal of the Fourteenth revised argument, Harlan argued the state was clearly aimed in ~ discriminating only versus blacks. For Harlan, the black color citizens in new Orleans who protested the Louisiana statute had no doubt around its intents and consequences. This to be why the law was therefore fiercely protested in the first place. Harlan wrote:

The destinies the the two races in this country are indissolubly attached together, and also the understanding of both need that the typical government of all shall not permit the seeds of gyeongju hate to it is in planted under the sanction of law. . . .State enactments regulation the enjoyment of civil civil liberties upon the communication of race, and cunningly devised to defeat legitimate results of the battle under the pretense of recognizing equality of rights, can have no other result than come render permanent tranquility impossible and also to keep alive a problem of gyeongju the continue of which need to do injury to all concerned.

The racial aggressions justice Harlan foresaw complied with the Court’s decision in 1896. Segregation regulations separated the races in trains, theaters, restrooms, water fountains, and also most windy spaces. The it spreads widely of laws and also ordinances requiring gyeongju segregation ongoing through the 1920s and also 1930s and also remained in result until the polite rights activity of the 1950s and 1960s – specifically, till the supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Plank of education and learning in 1954, which hosted that segregated colleges were naturally unequal and also violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal defense clause. The 1964 Civil legal rights Act banned separate but equal publicly facilities.

Review Questions

1. African American activist W. E. B. Du Bois it was observed that, prior to the judgment in Plessy v. Ferguson,

under Louisiana law, blacks and also whites were constantly legally separateaccess to public transport in Louisiana had constantly been same under the lawlegal segregation in Louisiana did not exist until the 1890 lawhe must be offered in a test case

2. Homer Plessy to be selected as a test situation for daunting the Louisiana segregation law since he was

a lawyer and also knew the legislation was unconstitutionalseven-eighths white yet under Louisiana law legally blackthe founder of the citizens Equal legal rights Leaguea journalist

3. According to the majority opinion in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision,

the Fourteenth Amendment could not have been intended come abolish distinctions based on colorthe Fourteenth Amendment explicitly granted political and also social equalitystates were provided the ideal to interpret the Amendmentno citizen has universal polite freedom

4. Follow to the dissenting opinion in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision,

the main allude of the Fourteenth Amendment to be to force “political” equality of the races “before the law”the Court to be unable to see how the Louisiana statute deprived Plessy of, or in any means affected his ideal to, his propertythe constitution does not require the government to insurance equality of resultsthe constitution is color-blind and neither knows no one tolerates classes amongst citizens

5. In the majority opinion, the translate of the Fourteenth Amendment contained all the following except the idea that

the constitution does not have actually jurisdiction over private transportationthe Louisiana law was a reasonable regulation to keep “the public peace and good order”the constitution does no secure “social equality”the enforced separation the the two races does not stamp either through a argorial of inferiority

6. “The destinies of the 2 races in this country are indissolubly attached together, and also the understand of both need that the usual government of every shall not permit the seed of race hate to it is in planted under the ratify of law” is a quote from

the Fourteenth Amendment come the Constitutionthe Thirteenth Amendment to the ConstitutionJustice john Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. FergusonJustice Henry Billings Brown’s bulk decision in Plessy v. Ferguson

Free response Questions

Compare the argument made in the bulk opinion of the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision v that developed in the dissenting opinion.

AP exercise Questions

“The arbitrarily separation of citizens, top top the communication of race, if they are on a publicly highway, is a argorial of servitude wholly inconsistent with the polite freedom and also the equality prior to the law established by the Constitution. It can not be justification upon any kind of legal grounds.

If evils will an outcome from the commingling the the 2 races upon public highways created for the benefit of all, they will be infinitely much less than those that will certainly surely come native state law regulating the enjoyment that civil legal rights upon the communication of race. We boast the the freedom delighted in by our human being all various other peoples. Yet it is challenging to reconcile the boast v the state that the regulation which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation top top a large class the our fellow citizens, our equals before the law. The slim disguise of – equal’ accommodations because that passengers in railroad coaches will certainly not mislead anyone, no one atone because that the wrong this particular day done.”

Justice man Marshall Harlan, dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537, (1896)

Refer to the excerpt provided.

1. The overarching principle of righteousness Harlan’s dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson can finest be proclaimed as

the constitution is color-blindstates’ rights are superior to the power of the federal governmentthe Constitution provides for women’s suffrageequal access to education and learning is paramount

2. During the time together the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, some members the the african American community were involved in

opening vocational schools choose Tuskegee Institutedocumenting lynching incidents across the countryorganizing civil civil liberties marchesboycotting locations of company that practiced discrimination based on race

3. Which of this statements is an exact paraphrase that the excerpt?

The separation of citizen on the basis of race in public areas is continuous with the constitution as lengthy as the separate facilities are equal.Failure to properly regulate the enjoyment the civil civil liberties in a state would certainly be evil.Boasting of liberty does not make feeling as long as the regulation itself degrades our other citizens.Providing for same accommodations later will be enough to correct any kind of inequality today.

Primary Sources

Brown v. Plank of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Legal information Institute, Cornell University. Https://

The house Joint Resolution suggest the 13th amendment come the Constitution, January 31, 1865, 38th Cong. Https://

The house Joint Resolution propose the 14th amendment come the Constitution, June 16, 1866, 39th Cong. Https://

The house Joint Resolution propose the 15th amendment to the Constitution, December 7, 1868, 40th Cong. Https://

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). Legal details Institute, Cornell University. Https://

Slaughterhouse Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1872). Https://

Thomas, Brook. Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief background with Documents. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996.

Suggested Resources

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Brand-new York: Harper, 2014.

Hoffer, Williamjames Hull. Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and also Inequality in Jim raven America. Lawrence, KS: University push of Kansas, 2012.

Horton, J.O., and M. G. Moresi. “Roberts, Plessy, and also Brown: The Long, difficult Struggle against Segregation.” OAH magazine of History15, no. 2 (2001).

See more: How Many Egg Whites Is 3 Oz, 3 Ounces Pasteurized Egg Whites

Oberst, Paul. ” The Strange career of Plessy v. Ferguson.” Arizona legislation Review. 15 (1973):389.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” Street Law. Http://