Plessy v. Ferguson


Plessy v. Ferguson, argued on April 13, 1896, and decided on May 18, 1896, is probably best known for giving the United States the “separate but equal” doctrine. Plessy v. Ferguson ranks close to Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) as one of the most influential and thoroughly repudiated cases the Supreme Court has ever decided. The majority opinion was written by Justice Henry Billings Brown of Massachusetts, and it gained the assent of six additional justices. That opinion provided a legal imprimatur to segregation and the Jim Crow system of laws that flourished from the late nineteenth century through much of the twentieth century. Plessy v. Ferguson held that notwithstanding the Reconstruction amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments), which were passed in the wake of the Civil War to grant equal citizenship to African Americans and promised the equal protection of the laws to all persons, the United States Constitution allowed states to segregate...

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Plessy v. Ferguson (National Archives and Records Administration)

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