Citation. 163 U.S. 537, 16 S.Ct. 1138, 41 L.Ed. 256 (1896).
Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff challenged an 1890 Louisiana law that required railway passenger cars have separate railway cars based on race.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The legislature is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of peace and good order.
An 1890 Louisiana law required separate railway carriages based on race. Plaintiff, who was 1/8 Black, was ordered by a conductor to vacate a “white-only” train car and refused. Plaintiff was charged and convicted under the law. He challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing it violated the 14th Amendment.
Whether the Louisiana law violates the 14th Amendment.
No. The Louisiana law does not violate the 14th Amendment.
Legislation such as this is inconsistent not only with equality of rights, but personal liberty. This statute interferes with the personal freedoms of citizens. Our Constitution is color-bind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law..
Laws permitting separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact, do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other. Such laws have already been upheld with regards to schools. We cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is any more unreasonable or more obnoxious to the 14th Amendment.
Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution cannot put them upon the same plane.