Basics of the Court Cases
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson is the story of a black man sitting in the white section of a train. In 1892, 30-year old Homer Plessy wound up in jail for bucking the East Louisiana Railroad. He was required to ride in the “Colored" car (as African Americans were referred to then). Louisiana had passed the Separate Car Act to legally segregate passengers—keep certain groups apart—who rode common carriers of transportation.
An organization challenged the law but the Supreme Court said that “separate but equal" accommodations were fair. Then everything, restaurants, public schools, theaters and bathrooms—even drinking fountains—became separate, one for “colored" and one for whites. The court said since the act applies equally to blacks and to whites, and requires equal accommodations for both, it is not discriminatory and does not violate the 14th Amendment.
It wasn’t until 1954, that this doctrine was challenged again, in a case called Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka).
According to the United States Courts, “In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and finally put an end to slavery. Moreover, the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) strengthened the legal rights of newly freed slaves by stating, among other things, that no state shall deprive anyone of either ‘due process of law’ or of the ‘equal protection of the law.’"
In this landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, the “separate but equal" doctrine would finally be struck down. The main issue in this case (and several others bundled together) was the constitutionality of state-sponsored segregation in public schools. The case finally ended mandatory segregation in public schools.
Other cases under the 14th Amendment:
Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada: That Gaines, a black man, could go to law school with whites because there was no option of equal value available for black students.
Shelley v. Kraemer: That minorities cannot be kept from owning property in a neighborhood with a racially restrictive covenant (agreement).
Sweatt v. Painter: That a Texas law school cannot keep a black man from attending because there was no alternative black law school of equal opportunity.
Roe v. Wade: That a woman’s right to abortion was entwined with the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy; the decision gave a woman total autonomy over her pregnancy during the first trimester.
The 14th Amendment cases are interesting reading and important to our system of justice and fairness for all people, no matter their race, sex, age, religion, position in life, or holdings.