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Plessy v. Ferguson

One of the factors affected by while Southern unwillingness to recognize blacks as equals was public transportation. In 1890 the General Assembly of Louisiana passed a law requiring railroads to provide separate cars for whites and blacks, with the stipulation that the separate cars be of equal quality and comfort. The law was immediately attacked by civil rights groups, and to force the question of whether it was constitutional, a black man, Adolph Plessy, deliberately broke it by taking a seat in a whites-only car. The law was found constitutional by regional and state courts and went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. The Court ruled seven to one against Plessy and thus established as constitutional the concept of “separate but equal.” This concept was a springboard for what was called the “Jim Crow” system. Named for a character in a black minstrel show, the Jim Crow laws made segregation not merely acceptable but mandatory. Over the next several decades, “separate but equal” became pervasive, particularly in the South. Although there were some civil rights gains for blacks in the ensuing years, a definitive victory against Jim Crow did not come until 1954.

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