Wednesday, February 22, 2017

JIM CROW OFFICIALLY ARRIVES IN THE SOUTH WITH THE 1896 PLESSY V FERGUSON DECISION

Feeling Rebloggy
When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating common carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts.
On June 7, 1892 Plessy --who was light enough to pass for white-- deliberately sat in the white section [of a train] and identified himself as black...

He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Plessy's lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.
He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Plessy's lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.


Isn't this photo one of the loveliest ugly things that you've ever seen?


The 1896 DECISION: The Plessy decision set the precedent that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal." 


Speaking for a seven-man majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: 



  • "The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce.... a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either." 


Justice John Harlan, the lone dissenter, saw the horrific consequences of the decision. 


  • "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.... The present decision [...] will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon [...] colored citizens, 
The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, 
  • -such as restaurants, 
  • -theaters, restrooms, 
  • -and public schools. 
The doctrine was a fiction, as facilities for blacks were always inferior to those for whites. 

* * * * *
JIM CROW would officially remain in place in the south until 1954. The unofficial version would remain in place in the North, South, East, and West of the United States for much longer. I often call "Jim Crow" by a clearer name: "Slavery Part II" 


Arresting blacks for sitting in the wrong spot on a train or loitering in the south during crop picking season would land a person in a chain gang picking some white farmer's crop.  


Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice