Plessy V Ferguson

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In1892 Homer Adolph Plessy was a thirty-year old shoemaker from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was only 1/8 Black due to an African American great-grandmother, but he and his entire family passed as White. The State of Louisiana considered him Black. Plessy was asked by the Citizens Committee, a New Orleans political group composed of African Americans and Creoles like Plessy, to help them challenge the newly enacted Separate Car Act, a Louisiana law that separated Blacks from Whites in railroad cars. The penalty for sitting in the wrong car was either 20 days in jail or a $25 fine. Plessy agreed, and purchased a first-class ticket on the train to Covington, Louisiana. He took a seat in the Whites Only car and waited for the conductor. When the conductor arrived, Plessy informed him that he was 1/8 Black and that he was refusing to move to the colored car. The conductor called the police and had Plessy arrested immediately; he spent the night in the local jail and was released the next morning on bond. The Citizens Committee had already retained a New York attorney, Albion W. Tourgee, who had worked on civil rights cases for African Americans before. Plessy’s case went to trial a month after his arrest and Tourgee argued that Plessy’s civil rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution had been violated. While Judge John Ferguson had once ruled against separate cars for interstate railroad travel (different states had various outlooks on segregation), he ruled against Plessy in this case because he believed that the state had a right to set segregation policies within its own boundaries. Tourgee took the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which upheld Fergusons decision. In a 7 to 1 decision handed down on May 18, 1896 (Justice David Josiah Brewer did not participate because of the death of his daughter) the Court rejected Plessy's

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