US Supreme Court Decision
Plessy v. Ferguson
Decided: May 18, 1896
Plessy v. Ferguson
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
No. 210 Argued: April 18, 1896 --- Decided: May 18, 1896
MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
This case turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana,
passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races. Acts 1890, No.
111, p. 152.
The first section of the statute enacts that all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this
State shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races by providing two or
more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as
to secure separate accommodations:
That this section shall not be construed to apply to street
railroads. No person or persons, shall be admitted to occupy seats in coaches other than the ones assigned to
them on account of the race they belong to.
By the second section, it was enacted that the officers of such passenger trains shall have power and are
to assign each passenger to the coach or compartment used for the race to which
such passenger belongs; any passenger insisting on going into a coach or compartment to which by race he
does not belong shall be liable to a fine of twenty-five dollars, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a
period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison, and any officer of any railroad insisting on
assigning a passenger to a coach or compartment other than the one set aside for the race to which said
passenger belongs shall be liable to a fine of twenty-five dollars, or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a
period of not more than twenty days in the parish prison; and should any passenger refuse to occupy the
coach or compartment to which he or she is assigned by the officer of such railway, said officer shall have
power to refuse to carry such passenger on his train, and for such refusal neither he nor the railway
company which he represents shall be liable for damages in any of the courts of this State.
The third section provides penalties for the refusal or neglect of the officers, directors, conductors, and
employees of railway companies to comply with the act, with a proviso that "nothing in this act shall be
construed as applying to nurses attending children of the other race." The fourth section is immaterial.
The information filed in the criminal District Court charged in substance that Plessy, being a passenger
between two stations within the State of Louisiana, was assigned by officers of the company to the coach
used for the race to which he belonged, but he insisted upon going into a coach used by the race to which he
did not belong. Neither in the information nor plea was his particular race or color averred. The petition for