Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education: The Road to Integrated School Systems

Essay by carrie999High School, 11th gradeA+, January 2003

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In 1986, the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case established that there could be separate but

equal facilities for blacks and whites, giving support to Jim Crow laws. The Supreme Court did

not begin to reverse Plessy until the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case 58 years

later, which established that segregating blacks and whites was unconstitutional and that separate

could never be equal.

After the period of reconstruction following the Civil War, many states in the south and

other regions of the country passed laws that discriminated against African-Americans. These

laws ranged from restrictions on voting to requirements that blacks and whites use separate

facilities and attend separate schools.

On June 7, 1892, Homer A. Plessy, a man who was one-eighth black and seven-eighths

white, bought a train ticket to travel from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana. Under

Louisiana law, he was considered black and was required to ride in the "colored" car.


Plessy sat in the "whites only" car, he was arrested and put in jail in New Orleans


Plessy faced trial for his crime of riding in a railroad car for whites only. John A.

Ferguson presided over his trial in federal district court. He was found guilty, and the Louisiana

Supreme Court upheld his conviction. Plessy then appealed to the United States Supreme Court

for an order forbidding Louisiana-in the person of Judge Ferguson-from carrying out his

conviction (Frost-Knappman).

On April 13, 1896, Plessy's lawyers argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Their

argument was that Louisiana had violated Plessy's 14th Amendment right to equal protection

under the law (Cozzens). Attorney General Cunningham argued that the law merely made a

distinction between blacks and whites and did not necessarily treat blacks as inferiors (Cozzens).

On May 18, 1896, the court issued its decision,