Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
A Louisiana state law required separate accommodations on railroads for white passengers and black ones. A black citizen, Plessy, was jailed for refusing to leave a car that was reserved for white passengers. He appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the principle of "equal but separate" violated his rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court, in a 7-1 vote, upheld the "separate but equal" doctrine which lasted until they reversed it in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Justice Harlan's stated in his famous dissent in the 1896 case that: "The Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." The Warren Court of the 1954 case echoed his sentiments.
Copyright © 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern