Brief History of Jim Crow Laws

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13th Amendment:

The amendments that were involved and brought into the Plessy v. Ferguson case included the 13th and 14th amendments. The 13th amendment was ratified on December 6th, 1865. It established the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. However, discrimination by color basically violates this amendment according to the statements made by many citizens. Even though slavery no longer existed as a result of the 13th amendment, segregation still occurred and lived. Segregation was considered equivalent to having no freedom or rights just like slavery.

14th Amendment:

Following the 13th amendment, the 14th amendment was ratified on July 9th, 1868. This amendment established the equal rights protection. It justified and ensured the protection of races. Generally, it made the statement that citizens should be equal. States, laws, etc. should all not degrade people or their rights. This amendment was supposed to protect the rights of native-born African Americans. It allowed citizenship to African Americans born in the U.S.

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The 1883 Cases:

After the ratifications of the amendments, five court cases was brought into the Supreme Court on October 15, 1883. The court ultimately decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. The 1883 decision allowed for a new national debate to spark because of the meaning of citizenship. This was considered as a major complication in the struggle for equal rights. Congress basically had no power to maintain the individual acts of discrimination. THe 1883 decision also allowed the “white concept” to survive in the social hierarchy. It revealed and showed the opposition to the nature of citizenship itself. African AMericans had to work between states citizenship and federal citizenship. The decision questions if African AMericans were even considered as equal American citizens. Eventually, it also declared the Civil Rights Law as wrongful and full of flaws.

Jim Crow Laws / Segregation:

Segregation is the act of separating others and treating others unfairly solely based on their differences. SOuthern blacks felt that the JIm Crow era has given them enough reason to ensure a resistance. in 1890, a law was passed and stated that there would be different railway carriages. Segregated rail cared existed due to the 1890 Louisiana statute that allowed it to create separate cars for the colored. There was resistance against making these types of laws but as railroads improved so did state segregation laws. The East Louisiana railroad ran inside the state borders so they could pass state segregation laws. JIm Crow is technically a character who was described as intruder and was identified with racially segregated train cars which were dedicated to African Americans. These cars allowed black passengers to be embarrassed and cast out. STates and agencies were allowed to segregate any public location. Plessy v. Ferguson became the main cause of the “separate but equal” JIm crow system distinctions. Colored facilities were considered inferior and Jim crow segregation had rules on trains and streetcars. These rules violated African AMericans’ rights to ride any train cvars. Everything generally degraded the individuality of an African American. “Over the next few years, segregation and black disenfranchisement picked up pace in the South and was more tolerated by the North.” “Blacks organized to oppose the passage of state segregation laws.” -Blair L.M. Kelly. An author who wrote about African American history.


Railroads were designed and meant to be made for ALL passengers, regardless of race and ethnicity. HOwever, 1st class cars were really only meant for white riders. Jim Crow cars were meant for African Americans. These cars resembled smoking cars and similar poor conditions. There was no water provided for the hot, packed cars.


Afro-creoles were groups of individuals in New Orleans that all shared and agreed on same opinions and thoughts. They all wanted and planned for plessy to be arrested because he violated the Louisiana’s separate car act. They wanted a test case and realized to bring the case to the court. In order for this to work, Plessy had to challenge the law in court.

Test Case:

In addition to the afro-creoles, test cases were used to raise money to select specific people (attorneys) that would participate in the case. A test case is considered to be a legal strategy that was reflected on by the common law. Test cases themselves have learned and grew from mistakes. The committee wanted a co-counsel so they decided to make one and see if Plessy would challenge the Supreme Court.

Birmingham Civil Rights Meeting:

The Birmingham Civil Rights meeting were when black southerners challenged the civil rights infringements. African AMericans met challenges due to segregation and racial discrimination undoubtedly. The meeting’s purpose was to raise funds in prosecuting cases.

Plessy’s Argument:

Plessy stated the statue and his arrest violated both the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) and the 14th Amendment. He stated that calling him non-white rejected his property rights and assumed his race. He argued he was white not African American. He wanted Ferguson to realize that he was at fault.

“Plessy v. Ferguson was the semifinal post-Reconstruction Supreme court decision that judicially validated state sponsored segregation…”

The Ordeal of Mt. Hope / Howard Cokesbury:

Dunbar wrote a short story called “The Ordeal of Mt. Hope”. It was published in FOlks from Dixie in 18908. Reverend Howard Cokesbury to the SOuth to be a minister of a black community. IT described trains in classed terms and centered around COkesbury who questioned who he really was.

People Involved in the Case:

Homer Adolph Plessy was classified as African American. He was actually ? Caucasian and ? African blood”. On June 7th, 1892, Plessy boarded a train from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana. He sat in the whites-only car and refused to move which eventually led to his arrest He filed a petition against the judge, John H. Ferguson and stated the law violated the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Court ruled that the protections of the 14th Amendment related to civil, political, etc. rights (but not social rights and personal opinions such as Plessy choosing which car he wanted to sit in). The Court stated the law separated the 2 races as a matter of public policy. He was a skilled laborer and tried to prosper and succeed. He was many different things and was listed as a clerk, a warehouse worker and an insurance collector. He was also a shoe repair man and shoemaker. He was only counted as a laborer not anything else. He shared the money of many other workers.

Paul Laurence Dunbar is an author / poet who came out into awareness when JIm Crow also became famous. Dunbar was called “the new voice of black artistic authenticity”. He was a great African American literature figure during that time. He reminded and informed white Americans of the “legacy of slavery”. He saw the use of dialect as a reminder and the protection of the “black language’. This language was also used as a way to demolish and trick the African American resistance and survival. He served as opposition to “antebellum minstrelsy”. He challenged the limitations of JIm Crow through his literary work and presented the ways of how a generation is in the middle between the guarantees of freedom and the failures of segregation. He wasn’t subjected to the Jim Crow Cars. His mentor Frederick Douglass faced segregation. Douglas was throwing in the segregated Jim Crow car and was forced to ride on cargo. The Civil war contested unfair treatment on rails/railcars.

Henry Billings Brown and his opinion for ? justices involved in the case was able to be maintained Louisiana’s separate car act. He denied and continuously rejected then statements / arguments made by Plessy’s attorneys. He refused to listen that the law violated the 13th and 14th Amendments. He found that the law’s statement: “equal but separate” met the constitutional standard

John Marshall Harlan stated the decision does not apply to the original intent of the amendments. He proved that the real intent of the amendments is: “to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens regardless of race”. The decision stripped African Americans of power and rights. He had no power against discrimination.

George Washington Cable was a white man from Louisiana. He stated the white southerners made a mistake by combining civil rights with social privileges and how civil rights were unbiased rights. Social rights were generally just personal choices. He claimed how segregation was unnecessary. He wrote an essay: “The Silent South” and stated how African Americans should ride with the same conditions as whites. African Americans should be able to ride in the same cars as others. The Southern white press were the main cause of mixed opinions for and against black rights.

Judge John H. Ferguson dismissed anything that related to the classification of Plessy as a person of color. The law did not apply to interstate trains according to him. He allowed for the law to still stand and denied Plessy’s motion and petition. He stated the law did not violate the 13th and 14th Amendments

Aristide Mary was behind the test of Jim Crow. He was a veteran of many failed crusades. He created the committee called “the Comite de Citoyens” with R.L. Desdunes. They considered themselves as “creole” not “african american”. It was a French creole committee. He was only in in charge of the Plessy test case.

Ida B. Wells was forcibly removed from her car she usually rode in. Despite struggling to stay in the car, she was eventually violently removed. Similar to Well’s other African American passengers were resistant to unequal treatment / unfair racial practices. She sued the Chesapeake and Southern Western Railroads.

Miss Mary Britton was an African American educator from LExington, Kentucky. She thought segregation as a step backward towards the slave past and created a pamphlet describing their protest. She fought for liberty and her service was meant for the race. She wanted blacks to have and enjoy full citizenship. Dunbar wrote about Britton’s battle in the pamphlet and a poem honoring her. This poem also argued against the Anti-Separate car movement. Despite the efforts of Britton, it became law.

Howard Dokesbury judged the degraded state. The metaphor of the train meant a lot. The segregated car was like a disregarded community. JIm Crow Cars and sergrated cars are not need or wanted. Doesbury tried to connect with his people when he returned.

Albion w. Tourgee looked out opportunities consistent with his abilitionish committee. He believed in equal rights and began a law practice due to witnessing race wars, post-slavery adjustments, etc. He believed in a world of different races and accepting racial differences. All men are equal, racial differences do not matter and people should live without discrimination. He published “A Fool’s. Errand by one of the fools”. He described struggles against Klan violence and other problems. Tourgee’s law practice income was supplemented. Ohio took the lead in segregating before the Civil War. He no longer practice law when the committee approached him but was an advocate for a cause. He wanted to preserve the separate Car act by saying it did not apply to interstate train travel.

Lionel Adam arranged for Plessy to be put with a specific judge. Ferguson was a transplant from Massachusetts. He aligned himself with the Democrats and agreed with them. He practiced law practices.

African American Women faced discrimination because of their race and gender. There was thought put into considering race and gender and looking past that but no action was taken African American women were treated very unfairly such as Ida B. Wells.

“We consider the underlying fallacy of Plessy’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the 2 races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority.”-Justice Henry Brown, A lawyer who had a big role in the Plessy Case.

“The Majority opinion held that Negroes were equal to whites civilly not socially.”

Supreme Court Ruling:

The supreme court ruling for the Plessy case was that the African Americans had only some political and Civil rights. They did not have social rights. The Supreme Court denied that segregated rail cars for African AMericans were considered inferior. African AMericans couldn’t really pick the cars they wanted to sit in so they had no opinions. “Plessy’s conviction was sustained through the estate courts and ultimately found its way to court.”

Outcome of the Plessy Decision:

THe decision validated segregation practices and provided a foundation for more segregation laws to come and be passed. The rights that African Americans earned were demolished as soon as the decision for the Plessy case was made. It ensured the “separate but equal” doctrine. African Americans were refused equal rights, resourced, etc. They faced countless unfair treatments and acts of discrimination. “The Plessy decision legitimized segregation practices begun earlier in the South…” -Steven J. Jager. An author who wrote about the Plessy case.

Equal Rights Association:

The Equal RIghts Association was a group of African Americans in Alabama who decided to create their own civil rights organization. They wanted to encourage the debate and the integration of the public schools gave them motivation.

Petition Related to The ERA:

The petition related to the ERA was shown to the Alabama quarters. A response was made against the anti-railroad companies in the state. It provided a chance to rule railroad companies and control them. It controlled these rates and companies. Whites were only concerned about their own rights not the equal treatment of others. The petition wanted to encourage peace between 2 races. The petitioners that they were happy and pleased. IT reinforced the subsequent role and it was a way to publicize opinion.

Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad:

The Gulf Colorado and the Sante Fe Railroad was involved with the Supreme Court when it stated that states were able to act on the police power. It had unfairly protected rights.

Southwestern Christian Advocate

African AMericans that felt betrayed and turned against at what was thought to be their white allies. They wanted to appeal to state authorities. A meeting in ALabama demanded considering the court’s decision. They were Christian advocates.

Louisville, New Orleans and Texas Railway Company v. Mississippi

This resulted in a new discussion and a war of opinions across the South because everyone was arguing what the meaning of separating race was. Individual states communicated with each other due to this discussion and created a new debate. The court decided to decide on this case and argued the new segregation law placed on state railroads were unfair. The result of the decision ultimately did not cause worse actions of segregation.

Brown v. Board of Education

The Plessy case created the “separate but equal” doctrine and did meet the conditions in the 14th amendment. However, the decision made by the Brown v. Board of Education case abolished this statement. The decision destroyed and disapproved the policies that were created by the Plessy decision that allowed the “separate but equal” doctrine to even exist. The Court stated this doctrine didn’t apply to school systems which overturned the law made in the Plessy case. THe Brown case was slowly destroying the policies made by the 14th Amendment. The Court denied that segregation was inferior (Railroad cars) and there was still segregation in schools. in 1954, a statement was issued by the Supreme court that being separate was inherently unequal. The bRown Case followed a rule about segregated buses too.

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Brief History of Jim Crow Laws. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved from