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Boynton v. Virginia
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 12, 1960
Decided December 5, 1960
Full case name Boynton v. Virginia
Citations 364 U.S. 454 (more)
Racial segregation in public transportation is illegal under the Interstate Commerce Act.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Black, joined by Warren, Frankfurter, Douglas, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart
Dissent Whittaker, joined by Clark
Laws applied
Interstate Commerce Act

Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. On December 20, 1958, Bruce Boynton, a senior at Howard Law School, left Washington, D.C. on a bus to go home for Christmas to Montgomery, Alabama. At the bus terminal in Richmond, Virginia he entered the restaurant and sat in the "white only" section. For refusing to leave, he was arrested and convicted for violating a Virginia statute making it illegal for anyone "without authority of law" to remain after being forbidden to do so. He then appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia. He maintained “that his conviction violated the Interstate Commerce Act and the Equal Protection, Due Process and Commerce Clauses of the Federal Constitution.” But the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction.He next petitioned the United States Supreme Court for certiorari. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of the lower court. The Court held that Boynton “had a federal right to remain in the white portion of the restaurant” as the Interstate Commerce Act “forbids any interstate common carrier by motor vehicle to subject any person to unjust discrimination.” Justice Hugo Black delivered the majority opinion.

The decision

The court ruled in a 7-2 decision in favor of Boynton. It held that interstate passengers were protected by the Interstate Commerce Act and the terminal's restaurant was a part of that facility. In part the decision read:

"Without regard to contracts, if the bus carrier has volunteered to make terminal and restaurant facilities and services available to its interstate passengers as a regular part of their transportation, and the terminal and restaurant have acquiesced and cooperated in this undertaking, the terminal and restaurant must perform these services without discriminations prohibited by the Act. In the performance of these services under such conditions the terminal and restaurant stand in place of the bus company in the performance of its transportation obligations."

Effects of "Boynton"

Justices Tom C. Clark and Charles Evans Whittaker dissented in the 7-2 decision. It was the first time since 1946 the court had split over matters of racial segregation.

Boynton v. Virginia paved the way and inspired the Freedom Riders to test the new ruling. Black and white riders rode together on Southern racially segregated buses beginning in 1961. After six months of protests and press coverage of the Freedom Riders, The Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed racial discrimination in seating passengers on interstate busses. It ordered the removal of "whites only" signs from all interstate bus terminals.

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