RESPONDENT: John Ferguson
LOCATION: Old Louisiana State Capitol
DOCKET NO.: 210
DECIDED BY: Fuller Court (1896-1897)
LOWER COURT: Louisiana Supreme Court
ARGUED: Apr 13, 1896
DECIDED: May 18, 1896
Alexander Porter Morse - for Ferguson
A. W. Tourgee - for Plessy
Samuel Field Phillips - for Plessy
Facts of the case
In 1890 Louisiana government upheld a law aimed to divide railways vehicles for blacks and whites.
In 1892 Homer Plessy, who had his ancestry of seven-eighths Caucasian and one-eighth African, bought a ticket in the Caucasian railway train devoted for only whites passengers. As accordingly to Louisiana legislation he was recognized as African American, the conductor demanded him to change the place to the car for Africans. He denied the asking; then he was incarcerated by the policemen.
The Committee of Citizens, which had the activity purposes to maintain the equality of people rights and avoid the discrimination on racial reasons, filed a claim before the court on behalf of Plessy. The plaintiff claimed to cancel his imprisonment and accusation.
The judge Ferguson justified that this normative act didn`t restrict the human rights, as Louisiana was empowered to implement this kind of law, as it enacted the regulation only for railway enterprises within the territory of Louisiana. The judgment confirmed his arrest and imposed the fine in 25 dollars; the higher state court proved that.
The case study underlined that the Committee brought an appellation to the Supreme Court of the USA claiming that the state law breached his rights in accordance with equal protection of the Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
The case brief reflected that the final judgment was upheld citing on the so-called separate-but-equal principle. It legalized the different types of facilities division for Americans and Africans, in other words, made segregation legible. The judges found that such rules of place separation in transport didn`t infringe the constitutional guarantees.
Is Louisiana's law mandating racial segregation on its trains an unconstitutional infringement on both the privileges and immunities and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?