Plessy v. Ferguson

Why is the case important?

Plessy v. Ferguson Brief The central themes of this case were public accommodations segregated on the basis of race, the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the principle of “separate-but-equal”.


A Louisiana statute required railroad companies to provide separate, but equal accommodations for its Black and White passengers. An exception was made for nurses attending to the children of the other race. Plaintiff, who was seven-eighths white, was prosecuted under the statute after he refused to leave the section of a train reserved for whites. The alleged purpose of the statute was to preserve public peace and good order and to promote the comfort of the people.

Key Players

1 Appellant: An African-American man who was denied accommodation in the whites-only car of a Louisiana train. Appellee: The state of Louisiana, which enforced laws permitting segregation in public accommodations against the African-American man.


Does the Separate Car Act violate the Fourteenth Amendment?


The Court held that the state law was constitutional. In an opinion authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown, the majority upheld state-imposed racial segregation. Justice Brown conceded that the 14th Amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law, but held that separate treatment did not imply the inferiority of African Americans. The Court noted that there was not a meaningful difference in quality between the white and black railway cars. In short, segregation did not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination. In dissent, John Marshall Harlan argued that the Constitution was color-blind and that the United States had no class system. Accordingly, all citizens should have equal access to civil rights.

What was the effect of the supreme court case Plessy v. Ferguson?


This case marks the beginning of the “separate but equal” doctrine. It is later overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. Plessy v. Ferguson Summary The Supreme Court ruled against an African-American man who attempted to ride in a whites-only train car in Louisiana in concluding that The Equal Protection Clause was not violated by state segregation laws which, in effect, keep The races “separate but equal” in public accommodations.

A. W. Tourgee for Plessy, Samuel Field Phillips for Plessy, Alexander Porter Morse for Ferguson
Old Louisiana State Capitol
John Ferguson
Homer Adolph Plessy
Fuller Court
163 US 537 (1896)
Apr 13, 1896
May 18, 1896