May 18, 1896: Plessy v. Ferguson Decided

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tags: Jim Crow, segregation, On This Day

On May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court ruled separate-but-equal facilities constitutional on intrastate railroads. For some fifty years, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation. Across the country, laws mandated separate accommodations on buses and trains, and in hotels, theaters, and schools.

The Court’s majority opinion denied that legalized segregation connoted inferiority. However, in a dissenting opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that segregation in public facilities smacked of servitude and abridged the principle of equality under the law.


May 18 is also the anniversary of the 1955 death of Mary McLeod Bethune, prominent educator, civil rights advocate, and advisor to Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.

Read entire article at Library of Congress

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