The Plessy Case: A Legal-Historical Interpretation

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byCharles A. Lofgren

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In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson upheld "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races" on all passenger railways within the state of Louisiana. In this account with implications for present-day America, Lofgren traces the roots of this landmark casein the post-Civil War South and pinpoints its moorings in the era's constitutional, legal, and intellectual doctrines. After reviewing de facto racial separation and the shift by southern states to legislated transportation segregation, he shows that the Fourteenth Amendment became a ready vehiclefor legitimating classification by race. At the same time, scientists and social scientists were proclaiming black racial inferiority and lower courts were embracing separate-but-equal in ordinary law suits. Within this context, a group of New Orleans blacks launched a judicial challenge toLouisiana's 1890 Separate Car Law and carried the case to the Supreme Court, where the resulting opinions by Justices Henry Billings Brown and John Marshall Harlan pitted legal doctrines and "expert" opinion about race against the idea of a color-blind Constitution. Throughout his account, Lofgrenprobes the intellectual premises that shaped this important episode in the history of law and race in America--an episode that still raises troubling questions about racial classification and citizenship--revealing its dynamics and place in the continuum of legal change.

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In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson upheld "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races" on all passenger railways within the state of Louisiana. In this account with implications for present-day America, Lofgren traces the roots of this landmark casein the post-Civil War South and pinpoints it...

Charles A. Lofgren is at Claremont McKenna College.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 7.99 × 5.39 × 0.59 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195056841

ISBN - 13:9780195056846

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"Lofgren has added greatly to our knowledge of civil rights law."--Library Journal