Plessy vs. Ferguson – African American History Essay


The Supreme Court of the United States: the highest court in the country. His job: decide the constitutionality of cases. But is that what they are really doing? Can we trust that their decisions are correct? Two important cases in history can help answer this question. An 1896 US Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson had facilities and schools segregated according to race. In another case in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, the court reversed its decision and said that separated were not equal. These two cases teach two lessons about the United States Supreme Court. Plessy shows that our justice system has sometimes failed to deliver justice. Brown shows that although the Court rules fairly, justice is not guaranteed.

Many events led to Plessy v. Ferguson. For example: After the Congress with federal troops drawn from the South in 1877, conditions for blacks deteriorated. The government pushed blacks into an inferior position. The government took steps to prevent blacks from voting immediately.

Poll taxes, “grandfather clauses,” were embarked on. They also segregated trains, parks, schools, restaurants, theaters, swimming pools, and even cemeteries. If blacks violated these segregation laws, they would probably end up in prison or dead!

The case of Plessy v. Ferguson was a very important case in American history because he enforced segregation even made it legal and made segregation a concrete reality for the people of the United States. It started with a man named Homer Plessy. Plessy was 7/8 white and only had a 1/8 drop of black blood on him, but under Louisiana law he was considered black. In 1890, Louisiana passed a law stating that “all railway companies carrying passengers in their cars in this state shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, providing two or more passenger cars for each passenger train.” , or dividing the passenger cars by a partition to ensure separate accommodations”. Plessy believed the law was unfair, so he defied the law by refusing to leave the white train car. He was arrested and put on trial. In this trial he argued that the Separate Cars Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. But he was found guilty. Plessy later appealed the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Again his case was confirmed. Plessy appealed again in 1896 to the United States Supreme Court. Homer Plessy was found guilty once again. The impact of the court’s decision was harsh. He created a reality that was a nightmare for many. Their lives would change dramatically. They would be officially separated and considered inferior in society.

Plessy v. Ferguson was the law of the land until 1954, when it was finally successfully overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, a girl named Linda Brown from Topeka, Kansas, had to walk five miles to go to school. She didn’t get recess and she couldn’t play with any of the other kids who were all white. Her parents filed a case with the US Supreme Court saying there is no way blacks and whites can get the same education if they are separated. The court ruled that separate are not equal.

The amount of time between Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown c. The Board of Education shows how long it took to get justice for Black people from the Supreme Court. I am amazed that our government can even question whether black people have a right to justice. It should be basic knowledge for us to know that it is wrong to treat anyone so unfairly. Just to prove my point, here are some questions you can ask yourself: Are black people human beings like white people? Do blacks and whites have feelings and needs? And finally, the only difference between blacks and whites is that they have a different complexion? I am confused as to why so many people, including our Supreme Court justices, would not answer yes to all of these questions. How could anyone who had any intelligence think it was acceptable to treat black people any differently?

Fortunately, the Court found reason in Brown v. Board of Education. However, the fact that the US Supreme Court ruled that separation is not equal does not mean that blacks were automatically treated equally. After Brown v. Board of Education, there had to be a Civil Rights Movement, in which many people were involved to push society to change. Two people who led the Civil Rights Movement were Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. We must recognize that it was not just those people, there were others who worked and helped the same cause. There were many ways they impacted the Civil Rights Movement. They gave speeches, wrote letters, led marches, held rallies, and many other strategies. They also endured mental and physical hardships. Only through the Civil Rights Movement was Brown’s promise truly achieved. These people were poor, rich, upper class, lower class, black, some white, short and tall. Basically, there was a wide range of different types of people. Not everyone automatically changed their mood when the US Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal. There were still a lot of people who were racist and wanted to keep black people in an inferior position.

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