The Plessy Case

The Plessy Case : A Legal-historical Interpretation

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In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana state law enforcing racial segregation on passenger trains. This decision remained effectively the law of the land on segregation until the 1950s. This book traces not only the development of the case and analyzes its decision, but, more importantly, puts it into the historical context of its more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 162.56 x 238.76 x 33.02mm | 635.03g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195038525
  • 9780195038521

Review Text

A new look at the famous "separate-but-equal" Plessy case that aligned the Supreme Court with the forces of segregation for 58 years before the 1954 Warren Court turned the tide. Historian Lofgren seeks to place the Plessy case into its historical context, particularly by examining the "scientific" racism of the 1890's. The decision was reported on page three of the next day's New York Times, sandwiched between other railway news. With such indifference was the case greeted. Lofgren records how popular and scientific opinion concluded that racial separation was reasonable in that it helped to maintain public health, morals, and welfare. This opinion was broadly based upon six propositions: 1) blacks are significantly different from whites; 2) the difference militates towards black moral and mental inferiority; 3) one can only expect a glacier-like change in this condition; 4) race mixing is deleterious to both races and ends in producing an inferior hybrid; 5) race antipathy is inevitable; and 6) an integrated society is impractical. The "separate-but-equal" pronouncement seemed a logical outcome of this mind-set. Ironically, the influence of Plessey was far-reaching, not so much in its negativity, but insofar as much of the decision in the 1954 Brown vs. Topeka School Board case was, ultimately, based upon the impassioned dissent of Justice Harlan in the Plessy case. A close, valuable look at a crucial bit of history. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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