The Supreme Court also reduced the scope of the Civil War Amendments by nullifying federal laws banning discrimination. The Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not empower the federal government to act against private persons. De jure segregation — the separation of races by the law —received the Supreme Court’s blessing in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson . A Louisiana law barred whites and blacks from sitting together on trains. A Louisiana equal rights group, seeking to challenge the law, recruited a light-skinned African American, Homer Plessy, to board a train car reserved for whites. Plessy was arrested. His lawyers claimed the law denied him equal protection. By a vote of 8 – 1, the justices ruled against Plessy, stating that these accommodations were acceptable because they were “ separate but equal .” Racial segregation did not violate equal protection, provided both races were treated equally.  Plessy v. Ferguson gave states the green light to segregate on the basis of race. “Separate but equal” was far from equal in practice. Whites rarely sought access to areas reserved for blacks, which were of inferior quality. Such segregation extended to all areas of social life, including entertainment media. Films with all-black or all-white casts were shot for separate movie houses for blacks and whites. Mobilizing against Segregation At the dawn of the twentieth century, African Americans, segregated by race and disenfranchised by law and violence, debated how to improve their lot. One approach accepted segregation and pursued self- help, vocational education, and individual economic advancement. Its spokesman, Booker T. Washington, head of Alab ama’s Tuskegee Institute, wrote the best -selling memoir Up from Slavery (1901) and worked to build institutions for African Americans, such as colleges for blacks only. Sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois replied to Washington with his book The Soul of Black Folk (1903), which argued that blacks should protest and agitate for the vote and for civil rights. Du Bois’s writings gained the attention of white and black Northern reformers who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois served as director of publicity and research, investigating inequities, generating news, and going on speaking tours. 
Saylor URL: Saylor.org 161 The NAACP brought test cases to court that challenged segregationist practices. Its greatest successes came starting in the 1930s, in a legal strategy led by Thurgood Marshall, who would later be appointed to the Supreme Court. Marshall urged the courts to nullify programs that provided substandard facilities for blacks on the grounds that they were a violation of “separate but equal.” In a key 1937 victory, the Supreme Court ruled that, by providing a state law school for whites without doing the same for blacks, Missouri was denying equal protection.