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Separate but Equal


The Plessy v Ferguson is deemed in American history as the epitome of the ideology “separate but equal” between blacks and whites within the nation. Rachel Bridgewater, writer for Library Journal, mentions this case in her review on “The Caning of Charles Sumner: Honor, Idealism, and the Origins of the Civil War” by Williamjames Hoffer and how this decision’s origins came to be as well as the aftermath. Bridgewater’s review begins with details of the case being “At issue was the right of a black passenger, Homer Plessy, to travel in a train car designated as white-only in the wake of the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890, which set up a system of "equal but separate accommodations."’ (Bridgewater). Bridgwater’s statement of the case fall in line with the general premise of the case put in layman's terms.

The Supreme Court decision in 1896 determining Plessy v Ferguson was fundamentally about the systematics of “equal but separate” as long as the facilities were held to the same conditions and standards. Homer Plessy, a man of one-eighth black descent, sat in a “whites-only” car, announcing to the passengers around him that he was, in fact, part black and able to pass for a white man, thus, told to leave by a railway officer. Justice Brown explicitly notes that officers do have the right to remove passengers to correct coaches and that if said passengers do not comply, fees or imprisonment may be the consequence for failure of compliance (Plessy 3). The primary question that came into play was whether or not the “separate but equal” concepts went against the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment. Brown’s argument is that “A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races… Indeed, we do not understand that the Thirteenth Amendment is strenuously relied upon by the plaintiff in error” (Plessy 5) and that “By the Fourteenth Amendment, all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are made citizens of the United States… generally that its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the negro” (Plessy 5). Hence, Brown argues that equality between the two races does fall as a statute under the law but that it is not for the judges to decide nor outlaw distinctions of separation. Therefore, Bridgewater’s basic presentation of the Plessy v Ferguson case is accurate in it’s representation to a general audience in relation to her review.

Works Cited

Bridgewater, Rachel. “Plessy v Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America.” Library

Journal, Reviews; Social Sciences, vol 137, no. 0, pp. 88. LexisNexis,

http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/

Plessy v Ferguson 163 U.S. 537. Supreme Court of the US. 1896.

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