The Plessy vs. Ferguson Case

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Mr Henry Billings Brown and his Judgment in Plessy vs Ferguson

Mr Henry Billings Brown wrote the judgment in Plessy vs Ferguson (Cornell Law School). The person was a private individual who worked for the Justice System as a judge of the Supreme Court. Given his position in the Justice Department, it is evident that he was an educated person who was able to rise through the ranks and become a judge of the Supreme Court. The intended audience for the opinion was a court audience who wanted to know the position of the state concerning segregation. As a result, the verdict contains strong references to the laws of the US.

The Storyline and Plessy vs Ferguson

The storyline in the opinion intends to show that people could be separate but equal. It upheld the practice of separating blacks from whites as long as the facilities provided were similar. The document summarizes some of the laws that place a responsibility on railway companies to provide separate facilities for people based on their race. The ruling also contains sections that mention the penalties that officers, employees, directors, and conductors will face should they refuse to comply with the Act that requires the segregation of for blacks and whites.

The Incident and the Opinion

The opinion arose from an incident involving an African American in one of the trains in the state. A concerned group of blacks and whites in New Orleans made the petition. The State of Louisiana had enacted the Separate Car Act that required separate rooms for blacks and whites in trains. Plessy was a person who had an African American heritage and wanted to challenge the law. He bought a ticket in the 'Whites only' carriages. However, on the day of travel, he was asked to vacate his seat and seat in the section meant for blacks. Plessy refused, and he was arrested. He was taken before Judge John Howard Ferguson for the determination of his case.

Court Ruling and Assumptions Made

The document is a court ruling concerning a case. It cites several laws related to segregation and the provision of facilities for persons of different races. The assumptions made in the opinion were that the listeners or readers were familiar with specific sections of the law. For example, Justice Brown quotes several rules concerning the responsibility of rail operators, employees, officers, and directors to offer different rooms for blacks and whites. The writer also assumed that people were knowledgeable of the constitution due to the reference made to Thirteenth Amendment concerning the abolishment of slavery.

The Reliability and Believability of the Opinion

The document is a reliable and believable opinion despite the difficulties it brought towards the realization of equality in the US. Brown's verdict is part of the proceedings in a court and relies on the laws of the United States to present the ruling. Furthermore, the decisions it gives are based on existing legislation from a variety of sources, such as the laws of the United States and the constitution. Therefore, the facts presented in the ruling are factual although they had an impact on the ability to end segregation.

The Racial Society and the Document

The society that produced the document was highly racial because the opinion seeks to give a basis for railway companies practising segregation. It shows that society had problems accepting the interaction of people from different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, it sought every method to ensure that people would not have an opportunity to be exposed to each other. One of the ways to achieve the goal was to ensure separate facilities for people based on their race. As a result, railway companies had to provide different rooms for people depending on their racial backgrounds. If a person sat in a region meant for a person of a mixed race, he or she could be removed from that section.

The Importance of the Opinion to the US History

The document has major importance to the history of the United States. Justice Brown’s decision established a new doctrine known as “separate but equal.” States in the south began a policy of dividing people based on the racial backgrounds. Consequently, public places, for example, schools adopted the practice of segregating people (Hasian & Klinger 276). The opinion delivered in Plessy vs Ferguson shows the way elite judges use superior statutes and philosophies to advance favored interests disregarding their consequences on the society. The judgment opened the way for racial intolerance that led to the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Justice Brown established the foundation for the social divisions that followed worsening the situation for African Americans.

Personal Significance of the Opinion

The document has a personal significance because it shows the way public officials can establish intolerance in society by pursuing mass interests. The decision made by Justice Brown pleased the white majority but led to the suffering of blacks. The opinion erased the advances toward equality that had been made since the Reconstruction Era. Plessy vs Ferguson highlights the way public officials use existing laws to serve the interests of the majority despite the negative social consequences. The case shows the need for courts to consider the social implications of their rulings. Justice Brown’s opinion built the foundation for discrimination that reached its peak during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.

Works Cited

Cornell Law School. Plessy v. Ferguson. Cornell Law School, n.d.

Hasian, Marouf and Klinger, Geoffrey. “Sarah Roberts and Early History of the Doctrine of the “Separate But Equal” Doctrine: A Study in Rhetoric, Law, and Social Change.” Communication Studies, vol.53, no.3, 2002, pp.269-283.

November 13, 2023

History Sociology

Subject area:

Civil Rights Movement

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