Plessy V. Ferguson: Separate but Equalby Tim McNeese
On a muggy day in the summer of 1892, a shoemaker from New Orleans boarded a passenger car designated for whites only. This single act of defiance constituted a violation of the state's Separate Car Law, a statute designed to keep the races separated on Louisiana's public transportation systems. Before the day's end, Homer Plessy had been arrested and booked. His crime consisted of being black and boarding a "whites-only" railroad car.
Over the next four years, Plessy's case would work its way through the legal system until it landed on the steps of the United States Supreme Court. To his supporters, the case served as a signpost for America's future: Would "Jim Crow" statutes, such as the Separate Car Law, continue to define black and white relations in the approaching twentieth century or would blacks finally be able to experience freedom?
About the Author:
Tim McNeese is an associate professor of history at York College in York, Nebraska
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