Citation. 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138, 41 L. Ed. 256, 1896 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Petitioner, Plessy (Petitioner), was denied a seat in the all white railway car because one of his great-grandparents was black.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Segregation of the races is not unconstitutional.
Petitioner was 7/8 white and 1/8 black. He was denied a seat on a train because of this mixture.
The state of Louisiana passed legislation that provided “separate but equal” railroad cars for blacks and whites. There was to be no commingling of the races in the same car unless a partition was provided.
Is the Louisiana statute providing for separate railroad cars constitutional?
Yes. Legislation is powerless to erase racial distinctions. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) was introduced to ensure that whites and blacks receive equal treatment. If the civil and political rights of both races are equal, one cannot be inferior to the other. If one race is socially inferior, the Constitution cannot rectify this.
This legislation is inconsistent with equality of rights. It is clear that the motive of this statute is to keep blacks out of the coaches occupied by the whites. By requiring the races to stay separate, the legislation is depriving citizens of their right to choose.
The majority rests on the idea that social inequity can never be resolved until individuals treat each other differently. But, this treatment was not something that the government could force on people. Therefore, as long as there was “separate but equal” accommodations, there was no violation of Equal Protection.