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Plessy v. Ferguson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 13, 1896
Decided May 18, 1896
Full case name Homer A. Plessy v. John H. Ferguson
Citations 163 U.S. 537 (more)
Prior history Ex parte Plessy, 11 So. 948 (La. 1892)
Subsequent history None
Louisiana's law requiring segregation is constitutional under the 14th Amendment, as long as both races have "separate but equal" facilities
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Brown, joined by Fuller, Field, Gray, Shiras, White, Peckham
Dissent Harlan
Brewer took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
Fourteenth Amendment; 1890 La. Acts 152
Overruled by
Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (partially overruled)

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled segregation was legal, as long as equal facilities were provided for both races. The decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1. The majority opinion was written by Justice Henry Billings Brown, and the minority opinion was written by Justice John Marshall Harlan.

In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education partially overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling.


The State of Louisiana passed a law saying that whites and blacks had to ride in different cars on trains, but required that the train cars be "equal." Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth black (meaning that one of his eight great-grandparents was black) was arrested for riding in a whites-only car. He challenged the Louisiana law, saying it was against the United States Constitution. Plessy argued that the state law which required East Louisiana Railroad to segregate trains had denied him his rights under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.


The Supreme Court, in a 7-1 decision, ruled that the Louisiana law was valid. They said that requiring whites and blacks to ride in separate trains did not harm blacks in any way. Justice John Marshall Harlan was the only justice who thought the law was against the Constitution. He thought segregation made blacks feel inferior. He said that the Constitution is "color blind" and that the law should not treat any group better than any other group.

Brown and Plessy

See also: Brown v. Board of Education

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court made it illegal to segregate schools by race. Chief Justice Earl Warren even ruled that ""separate facilities are [always] unequal.""

However, Brown did not make it illegal to segregate in any other places, aside from schools. Segregation in other places was still legal. This means that Brown overturned part of Plessy v. Ferguson by making school segregation illegal, but it did not overturn the entire law.

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