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Plessy Vs Ferguson (1896) - “Separate But Equal” (Essay Sample)


- What was the background of the case (history)
-What was the cause of it (the incident that triggered it)
-What were both sides arguing?
-What does it seem like public perception/opinion was at the time?
-What was the outcome of the case, and the resulting impact socially?
-What is your opinion on the case based on this?


Plessy vs Ferguson (1896)
An Assignment Submitted by
Name of Student
Name of Establishment
Class XXXX, Section XXXX, Fall 2011
The Plessy vs. Ferguson case was a milestone ruling that the US Supreme Court made in 1896 with respect to race relations in the country. Widely regarded as the worst Supreme Court decision in US history, its thrust was to uphold the legality of racial segregation in public amenities as long as these were of the same quality, a development that inspired analysts to coin the ‘Separate but Equal' term.
The bench passed the ruling on a 7 to 1 vote with Justice John Marshal Harlan being the only dissenting judge and Justice Henry Billings Brown issuing the majority opinion.
The incident that triggered this ruling was the Separate Car Act passed in the state of Louisiana in 1890 that required whites and blacks to ride in separate train cars while on journeys. Some Louisiana residents quickly formed the Committee of Citizens to fight the law or its effects and persuaded Homer Plessy, a mixed race man considered black to participate in an arranged experiment that would provoke legal ramifications.
Consequently, in June 1892 Homer Plessy boarded a train, sat in the car reserved for whites, was arrested and charged with breaking the Separate Cars law. In the subsequent case of Homer Adolph Plessy vs. The State of Louisiana, his lawyers maintained that the Separate Car Act disenfranchised him under the 13th and 14th amendments of the US constitution. The Judge, Justice John Howard Ferguson convicted Plessy of breaking the law and fined him $25. An appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court didn't succeed as the Ferguson ruling was upheld, forcing Plessy and the Committee of Citizens to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Plessy's lawyers presented two arguments based on the Separate Car Act's violation of the 13th and 14th amendments. The 13th amendment prohibited all forms of slavery and the demeaning treatment of people of color as a consequence of the slave master mentality. The 14thamendment guaranteed equal rights before the law to all citizens of the United States, making the Louisiana law invalid. Attorney General Milton Joseph Cunningham represented the State of Louisiana and argued that denying Plessy a chance to sit in any railroad car wasn't based on

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