The Fuller Court (1888–1910)
The Fuller Court upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine in what infamous decision?
The Fuller Court upheld the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which upheld an 1890 Louisiana law providing for separate accommodations for different races. Homer Plessy, who was an “octoroon,” an unflattering term for a person who was one-eighth black, was arrested in 1892 for boarding a whites-only coach. Rodolphe Desdunes, the leader of the New Orleans’ American Citizens’ Equal Rights Association, had recruited his friend Plessy for the specific purpose of challenging the law. Plessy and Desdunes took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown, reasoned that the law did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause because the law provided separate but equal facilities. Separate facilities, according to Brown, “do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other.”