Civil Rights and Protests

The Civil Rights Movement

What were the effects of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision on civil rights?

The term commonly used, “separate but equal,” refers to the provisions of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which for almost sixty years served as the legal foundation and justification for separating the races. Homer Adolph Plessy, a mulatto who was one-eighth black, seated himself in a white compartment on the East Louisiana Railroad. The conductor challenged his seating. Plessy was arrested and charged with violating the state law. Attorney Albion W. Tourgée argued in the Criminal District Court for the Parish of New Orleans that the law requiring separate but equal accommodations was unconstitutional. Judge John H. Ferguson ruled against him, prompting Plessy to apply to the Louisiana State Supreme Court to review the lower court’s decision. Plessy was granted a petition for a writ of error that enabled him to petition the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 18, 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Plessy. The law was not overturned until 1954, with the Brown v. Board of Education decision denying legal and unequal segregation in restrooms, schools, and other places.


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