Today in Legal History: Homer Plessy is Arrested – Leads to “Separate but Equal”

On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy was arrested when he refused to leave a “whites only” train car in New Orleans. Plessy went to court on the basis that the law (1890 Louisiana state law for racially segregated facilities) had violated his Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The case went to the Supreme Court, and in Plessy v. Fergson (163 U.S. 537), the court ruled that segregation was acceptable as long as there were “separate but equal” facilities available for African Americans.  The court’s decision legalized separate facilities based on race as long as they were “equal”.  The “separate but equal” doctrine was eventually overruled on May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U.S. 483).

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