Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

what was the basis of the plessy v. ferguson case?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding segregation and the constitutionality of the "separate but equal" doctrine.

    After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, during the period known as Reconstruction, the federal government was able to provide some protection for the civil rights of the newly-freed slaves. But when Reconstruction abruptly ended in 1877 and federal troops were withdrawn, southern state governments began passing Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from using the same public accommodations as whites. The Supreme Court had ruled, in the Civil Rights Cases (1883), that the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to the actions of government, not to those of private individuals, and consequently did not protect persons against their or private entities who violated their civil rights. In particular, the Court invalidated most of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a law passed by Congress to protect blacks from private acts of discrimination.

    In 1890, the State of Louisiana passed a law that required separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads, including separate railway cars. Concerned, several black and white citizens in New Orleans formed an association dedicated to the repeal of that law. They persuaded Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth black (an octoroon in the now-antiquated parlance), to test it.

    Plessy legitimized the move towards segregation practices begun earlier in the South. Along with Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise address, delivered the same year, which accepted black social isolation from white society, Plessy provided an impetus for further segregation laws. In the ensuing decades, segregation statutes proliferated, reaching even to the federal government in Washington, D.C., which re-segregated during Woodrow Wilson's administration in the 1910s.

    William Rehnquist wrote a memo called "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases" when he was a law clerk in 1952, during early deliberations that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In his memo, Rehnquist argued that "I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by 'liberal' colleagues but I think Plessy v.Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed." He continued, "To the argument... that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are."

    Source(s): Wikipedia
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