US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, sole dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson decision
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court issued in 1896. It upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality – a doctrine that came to be known as “separate but equal”. This legitimized the many state laws re-establishing racial segregation that had been passed in the American South after the end of the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877). The decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1, with the majority opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown and the lone dissent written by Justice John Marshall Harlan.
The decision itself has never been explicitly overruled. However, a series of subsequent decisions—beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954—have severely weakened it to the point that it is usually considered to have been de facto overruled. Wikipedia
Learn more about Plessy v. Ferguson through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about Plessy v. Ferguson
US Supreme Court upholds Mississippi law requiring separate rail cars for white and Black residents Sat, Mar 8, 1890 – Page 1 · The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.comExcerpt from an 1891 sermon by a Baptist minister describing and condemning separate car laws Sat, Oct 17, 1891 – Page 1 · The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.comCase of the State of Louisiana v. Homer Plessy argues the constitutionality of the Separate Car Act Sat, Oct 29, 1892 – Page 9 · The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comJudge J.H. Ferguson declares the Separate Car Act constitutional in 1892 Sat, Nov 19, 1892 – Page 3 · The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comHomer Plessy applies to Louisiana Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition after Ferguson’s decision Wed, Dec 28, 1892 – Page 7 · Wellington Enterprise (Wellington, Ohio) · Newspapers.comEditorial refuting another newspaper's explanation of separate car practices in the South Sat, Apr 1, 1893 – Page 2 · The Appeal (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Newspapers.comDecision of Plessy v. Ferguson to be settled by the Supreme Court Thu, Apr 2, 1896 – Page 8 · The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comThe case of Plessy v. Ferguson (arguing the Separate Car Act) is submitted to the US Supreme Court Fri, Apr 17, 1896 – Page 3 · The Semi-Weekly Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comUS Supreme Court affirms the constitutionality of separate car law in Plessy v. Ferguson Tue, May 19, 1896 – Page 8 · The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) · Newspapers.comExcerpt from an editorial published in 1896 following the Plessy v. Ferguson decision Sat, May 23, 1896 – Page 2 · Richmond Planet (Richmond, Virginia) · Newspapers.comJustice John Marshall Harlan dissented on Supreme Court decision on Plessy v. Ferguson Sat, Dec 26, 1953 – Page 12 · The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com“Separate but equal” from Plessy v. Ferguson is used in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Tue, May 18, 1954 – Page 12 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comSupreme Court overthrows Plessy v. Ferguson case with decision in Brown v. Board of Education Thu, May 27, 1954 – 13 · The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com