homer plessy

Plessy v. Ferguson
  • Plessy v. Ferguson
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class

The name “Plessy v. Ferguson” is probably familiar to most of our listeners – it was the 1896 Supreme Court decision that found segregation based on race to be constitutional, provided that the separate facilities were also equal. But, as is true of many Supreme Court decisions, the back story is less well-known. Today, we talk about the Civil War context that led to Jim Crow segregation laws in the first place, and the case that civil rights activists hoped would overturn segregation, not just in Louisiana, but also in the rest of the United States. Instead, it upheld segregation until being overturned by Brown v. Board — which we’ll talk about in future episodes.

Here’s a link to our notes and research.

On June 7, 1892, 30-year-old Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the “White” car of the East Louisiana Railroad.  His case would eventually end up being heard by The Supreme Court and result in the historic Plessy v. Ferguson ruling.

Plessy could easily pass for white but under Louisiana law, he was considered black despite his light complexion and therefore required to sit in the “Colored” car. He was a Creole of Color, a term used to refer to black persons in New Orleans who traced some of their ancestors to the French, Spanish, and Caribbean settlers of Louisiana before it became part of the United States. When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating common carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts. Plessy deliberately sat in the white section and identified himself as black. He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.  [Continue reading.]

See also:

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow

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 by Richard Wormser.

Farewell to Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of Segregation in America (Library of African-American History)

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   by R. Kent Rasmussen. [Currently on sale for 1 cent.]

American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow

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 by Jerrold M. Packard.

Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South

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 edited by William Henry Chafe, Raymond Gavins, and Robert Korstad.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow edited by C. Vann Woodward.