Landmark Cases

Plessy v. Ferguson

When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating common carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts. Homer Plessy deliberately sat in the white section and identified himself as black and was arrested.

Plessy’s case made its way to the Supreme Court in 1896. His attorney argue that the Separate Car Act violated his 13th and 14th amendment. The ruling for Plessy v. Ferguson instituted the separated but equal doctrine which meant separate facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were equal.

Brown v. Board of Education

The case known as Brown v. Board of Education was actually the name given to five separate cases that were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the issue of segregation in public schools. The plaintiffs in this case argued that segregation was inherently unequal and challenged the Separate but Equal Doctrine. NAACP’s chief counsel Thurgood Marshall represented the plaintiffs before the Supreme Court. He argued separate school systems for blacks and whites were inherently unequal, and thus violate the “equal protection clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1954 the Supreme Court stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” overturning the Separate but Equal Doctrine established in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. As a result, the process for desegregation began.

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