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Plessy v. Ferguson: Home


railroad advertisement. engraving of a steam engine pulling passenger cars.


     In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), petitioner challenged a Louisiana statute requiring "that all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this State shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition."

     The Court majority wrote "that it does not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, is too clear for argument." After twisted reasoning, the majority found no conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment either.

     The lone dissenter, Justice Harlan, accurately predicted "In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case."

     This LibGuide will assist the reader to explore the fascinating story of the case and to understand why the decision is remembered as epitomizing Jim Crow laws.

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1974.25.37.57.

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Francis Norton
Law Library of Louisiana
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