In 1890, Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act. The law required all railroad companies carrying passengers, needed to have separate cars for whites and non-white passengers. Planned by the Citizens Committee, the Plessy Case sought out to test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Act, challenging it violates the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment.
Born in New Orleans, a 30-year-old shoemaker, Homer described himself as light complexioned because he was seven-eighths white and only one-eighth black, this made his race hard to identify. (American Experience, 2006)
On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy boarded the East Louisiana train. He checked in as a black man; however, he sat in the first class “whites only” car. The railroad officials knew he was coming and arrested him just as the Citizens Committee had planned. Once arrested, Homer argued that they violated his Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery; in this case, Homer feels that his civil right to sit where he pleased made him feel as if enslaved to a certain part of the train.
The Fourteenth Amendment acknowledges that all citizens born or native to the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State where they live. No State shall make or enforce any law that abridges the privileges or immunities of the citizens, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law or deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Ely, Finkelman, & Hall, 2005) The Fourteenth Amendment is to protect Homer’s personal liberty and American citizenship; however, the State was concerned about keeping social order, and peace.
The case argued that separating citizens by color in a public area shows the Act of servitude that goes against the civil freedoms given by the Constitution to all citizens of the United States. This Act was not treating all citizens of the United States equally.
Judge John H. Ferguson presided over the case. Prior to this case, he had ruled that the Separate Car Act was unconstitutional outside of Louisiana; however, that it was constitutional in the state of Louisiana. (Landmark Cases, 2002) He decided that the State could choose to regulate the railroad companies within the State of Louisiana. Due to this, he ruled against Plessy.
The Citizens Committee and Plessy held strong to their beliefs, that they took the case...