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Plessy Vs Ferguson 1896 Essays

Plessy vs. Ferguson Essay examples

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Plessy vs. Ferguson

Plessy v. Ferguson , a very important case of 1896 in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the legality of racial segregation. At the time of the ruling, segregation between blacks and whites already existed in most schools, restaurants, and other public facilities in the American South. In the Plessy decision, the Supreme Court ruled that such segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This amendment provides equal protection of the law to all U.S. citizens, regardless of race. The court ruled in Plessy that racial segregation was legal as long as the separate facilities for blacks and whites were “equal.”
This “separate but equal” doctrine, as it…show more content…

As a result, segregation gradually spread. By the mid-1890s railroad cars and other forms of public transportation had become segregated in a number of southern states.

The Plessy case grew out of a careful strategy to test the legality of a Louisiana law passed in 1890 that required railroads to maintain separate train cars for blacks and whites. In September 1891 a group of blacks in New Orleans, Louisiana, formed the Citizens Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law and raised $3000 to mount a formal challenge to segregation in Louisiana. Albion Tourgee, then the nation’s best-known white advocate of black legal rights, agreed to argue the case free of charge.

In June 1892 Homer A. Plessy bought a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad and sat in the car designated for whites only. Plessy was of mixed African and European ancestry, and he looked white. Because the Citizens Committee wanted to challenge the segregation law in court, it alerted railroad officials that Plessy would be sitting in the whites only car, even though he was partly of African descent. Plessy was arrested and brought to court for arraignment before Judge John H. Ferguson of the U.S. District Court in Louisiana. Plessy then attempted to halt the trial by suing Ferguson on the grounds that the segregation law was unconstitutional.

In 1896 Plessy’s challenge reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where Tourgee argued that segregation violated

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The moment the first slave was brought to America a ball was set in motion that one day somewhere and somehow a distinction between races had to be dealt with. The Civil War helped to make a stand against enslavement. A few years later in Plessy v. Ferguson another step was taken to give blacks equal but separate treatment and access to public facilities. After taking a giant leap into the future, fifty-eight years, we have another landmark case. In Brown v. Board of Education, the separate but equal law was revised to bring the races together in the same public facilities with access to the same public resources.

The decision of Brown released congress from the restraints that they had been under with the previous decisions made by the Supreme Court. Congress was now able to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race. Quotas were instituted to minimize the discrimination that had been taking place. With quotas comes reverse discrimination. In Bakke v. Regents of the University of California came the dismissal of quotas in schools. Bakke challenged the University for letting black students into school with lower qualifications. Quotas are an unfortunate necessity to help incorporate blacks into the mainstream workforce.

The decisions in Plessy and Brown are similar because of how the decisions affect the group instead of the individuals. The Court is continually ruling in regard to race instead of the individual. If the Constitution is truly color blind, then we would not have these distinctions between classes when the rulings are made. Each ruling by the Court should be done on an individual basis and by the merits of that particular individual instead of the color of ones skin. The only reason the court rules in favor of Brown is because the implications go beyond just the individual affected, the ruling will affect the entire black race. The effects of the Brown case go a lot further than the immediate case.

During the sixties the civil rights movement encouraged the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act was already in the works due to the decision in Brown. Brown released the flood gates which held back blacks from equal opportunities. Before this decision blacks were in a psychological caste system. Even though they had the “same opportunities” as whites the mere fact that they were forced into separate quarters only thirty years after the release of their enslavement made them feel as if they were in a lower class. A lot of people say that if the blacks feel that way, then that is their own fault. The same people forget that the Constitution is color blind and would not understand why we have to have separate quarters in the first place.

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, case after case was brought before different courts throughout the land to test the limits of the law. In 1972, Moose Lodge No.107 v. Irvis was brought before the Supreme Court. Irvis felt that he should be allowed to join a private club because the liquor licence was in limited supply in the city based on per capita, and the licence is supplied by the state. The government can not sanction racism and, according to Irvis, would be doing so by issuing a liquor licence to Moose Lodge No. 107. The right of a private club to choose its own members is one of the main reasons behind having a private club to begin with. To allow the government to invade the private sectors through an insignificant means was denied and the Supreme Court put their foot down and set some boundaries for civil rights activists.

Again in 1984 in Palmore v. Sidoti, we have a case where the Civil Rights Act of 1964 will attempt to set some boundaries with bi-racial relationships and the placement of kids affected in the process. The welfare of the child has always been the courts number one priority when kids are involved. When Linda Sidoti moved in with a Negro, Anthony Sidoti sought custody of their child based on the child’s best interest. The question that was brought before the Supreme Court was if the child living with a Negro might inflict private biases from the child’s peers. This is one of the few cases that the child’s best interest is not what the Court was considering. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, government is to do away with classifying people according to their race. If we classify someone according to their race it will do more harm in the long and short run than the private biases the child in question will inflict.

Both of these cases have followed suit to Plessy and Brown in the fact that even though it seems that the rulings are having a direct effect on the people involved in the case, each case is addressing an entire group of people and establishes standards and boundaries.

In Bakke v Regents of the University of California, we have a landmark reverse discrimination case that influenced education as a whole. Bakke was rejected from graduate school even though he had superior scores than many of the African-American applicants who were admitted. Bakke challenged the University of California and overturned the quota system that had been established in public universities across the nation. The University of California held on to the belief that black people should have access to black doctors. However, if the University were to go on a sole merit system then the number of special admittees would diminish along with the aforementioned belief. This belief was quickly altered by the Supreme Court with their decision against the University.

The Court’s understand group rights and they address the individual rights through these group rights. Unfortunately the Supreme Court feels a necessity to answer individual questions by addressing entire groups. Everybody has needs and wants however, it is almost impossible to take each individual and create different criteria for them because the situation is a little different then situations that preceded it. Brown was addressed to a group to answer questions to a whole nation. Each case is the same in that every outcome has addressed an audience that fits the general mold that has been created in that particular case. The opinion of the Supreme Court has established an outline that serves as a guideline for lower courts. The opinion is recognized as the law of the land. That is the reason that the opinion of the Court must be directed towards a group when deciding a case. The case will be referred upon as actual law and must fit a broad group of people.

When Brown was decided Pandora’s Box was opened. Many trials have taken place that would not have if that case had been decided differently. With Plessy the opinion of the Court was very clear, you could almost say it was black and white. After Brown was decided, many questions were yet to be answered. Many random questions about the limits of the opinion were going to be exasperated. With every decision by the Supreme Court, Pandora’s box begins to close a little more each time.

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