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*On this date in 1892, a 30-year-old Black shoemaker named Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the "White" car of the East Louisiana Railroad.
Plessy was only one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, but under Louisiana law, he was categorized Black and therefore required to sit in the "Colored" car. Plessy went to court and argued, in Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, which the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy's case and found him guilty once again.
The Plessy decision set the precedent that "separate" facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were "equal." The "separate but equal" doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York