Plessy Vs. Ferguson Ms.Dickerson’s Class

Learning Target: Student will evaluate information to formulate an opinion. PastedGraphic-2Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)  Breaking the Rules You may have heard the saying, “Some rules are meant to be broken.” In 1890, a man named Homer Plessy broke the rules. The state of Louisiana had passed the Separate Car Act, which required railway companies to have “separate but equal” train cars for black people and white people. A person who sat in the wrong car had to pay a $25 fine or go to jail for 20 days. You can probably guess that the cars for blacks weren’t as nice as the cars for whites. Not only that, it seemed unfair to make black people sit separately. A group of citizens called the “Free People of Color in New Orleans” formed a committee dedicated to repealing this law. They convinced Homer Plessy, who was 7/8 white and 1/8 black, to test the law by sitting in a whites-only train car. When Plessy was asked to move, he refused and was arrested.




The Argument Plessy argued that Louisiana’s Separate Car Act violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It says that states may not “deny to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Meaning every citizen has the same rights, and protection under the law.


He argued that requiring black people to sit separately from white people implied that blacks were inferior to whites, and therefore unequal.


The Decision The Supreme Court disagreed. It saw separate train cars as an issue of social equality, not political or legal equality. Social Equality refers to peoples status in terms of who they are can mean are they educated, have a certain amount of money etc…It said separating the races did not take away civil or political rights. Justice Brown wrote for the Court, saying that “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.” Justice Brown said there had been separate schools for black and white students for a very long time, and many court cases had decided that states were allowed to have these segregated schools. Out of the nine justices, Justice Harlan was the only one to dissent, or disagree. He wrote that “our constitution is color-blind” and does not tolerate “classes among citizens.” He said the Court’s decision would lead to racial hatred and increased attacks against black peoples’ rights.

We are just beginning to play with this concept and will do a longer written piece on this Today let’s try to form an opinion on the idea in a few sentences tell me do you think Separate can be equal?




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