Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing
all Americans equal protection, regardless of race.
Louisiana passed Act 111 that required separate
accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads, including separate
In order to get around the Equal
Protection Clause of the 14th
Amendment, Act 111
specified that the accommodations must be kept "equal."
A group of citizens decided to
test the constitutionality of the law, so they sent Plessy (who was only
1/8th black) to violate it. He was arrested and convicted of
violating the law.
The Louisiana Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Plessy appealed.
The US Supreme Court upheld
The US Supreme Court found
that the Equal Protection Clause
of the 14th Amendment only required that laws
that provide "equal" protection. It does not say that laws
cannot create multiple classes of persons.
"We consider the
underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the
assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the
colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by
reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race
chooses to put that construction upon it."
This case made the doctrine of
"separate but equal" constitutional.
equal" basically says that segregation based on classifications was
legal as long as facilities were of equal quality.
Of course, in practice,
minorities were not provided with genuinely equal facilities and
resources, so "separate but equal" was almost always a de
facto violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
This case, and the doctrine of
"separate but equal" were overturned in Brown v. Board of
Education (347 U.S. 483 (1954)).