PLESSY V. FERGUSON: A BRIEF SYNOPSIS
The “doctrine” established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson was that of “separate but equal”. The infamous decision basically concluded that facilities for black Americans which were “separate” from those of white Americans were constitutional as long as they were of “equal” quality. In essence, the Supreme Court was ruling that laws of segregationist states requiring “separation” of public facilities based on the skin color of those using said facilities were fair, legal, and justified.
The impact of the 1896 decision had a profoundly negative effect on the lives of black Americans and contradicted the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment, ratified only 26 years before, was passed by Congress following the Civil War in effort to guarantee equal rights under the law for “all” Americans. The intent in adding it to the Constitution was to aid in reversing the cruel, heartless treatment African-Americans suffered from the day they were forced from their homeland to the shores of the United States. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision basically dismantled the theory of overall equality by granting legitimacy to unfair segregationist policies.
As a matter of fact, the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling not only eroded any advances which may have been gained by black Americans in the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, but also provided backing for the so-called Jim Crow Laws which had been enacted by a number of state legislatures. In effect, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision added fuel to the fire of the infamous and ridiculously unfair Jim Crow statutes—a fire which would not be exterminated for the better part of a century when Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act were ruled-on and passed in 1954, 1964, and 1965 respectively.