Honors English 10
19 Dec. 2017
Plessy vs Ferguson and how it affected
the U.S. and Little Rock 9 in Warriors
Ferguson started regionally, as a test to see if Louisiana could make
segregation legal statewide. After Louisiana’s court declared there was no
fault, the impact was much more largely felt. Plessy v. Ferguson affected not
only black people but most white people as well.
On the 7th of
June, 1892, Homer Plessy was arrested due to his refusal to move from a seat he
had rightfully paid for. His refusal would end up pushing the limits of what is
considered constitutional about the “Separate Car Act”. Plessy’s argument was
that his removal went against the 14th amendment, as stated in the case,
“Plessy v. Ferguson”.
By the fourteenth
amendment, all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to
the jurisdiction thereof, are made citizens of the United States and of the
state wherein they reside; and the states are forbidden from making or
enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens
of the United States, or shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law, or deny to any person within their jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws. (Transcript)
The 14th amendment may grant these rights, but
the 10th overrules these by providing the court the power to decide on the
constitutionality of any problems not covered previously in the constitution.
The 14th amendment guarantees equal protection, which is the reason why a decision
overruling it would harm our country for decades to come.
the conclusion that “Separate but equal” was constitutional, even though now it
would be considered backward and wrong. Ferguson stated, “It the removal of
Plessy from the train does not conflict with the thirteenth amendment, which
abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except a punishment for crime, is too
clear for argument” (Transcript). This is one of the statements that pushed
Ferguson towards his ruling. The legalization of “Separate but Equal” affected
people during the civil rights movement in two main ways: the image of black
people compared to white people and the overall infrastructure and economy of
Black people were
seen as lower classes and not as good as their paler counterparts. Without seeing
a person’s ability, color caused a person to be disregarded or even purposely
targeted. With “Separate but Equal” in place segregation spread more and more,
and black people were treated worse and worse, even though the name states
“Equal”. White people would get normal or nice facilities while people of color
might get a shed or something of a way poorer quality than what the white
people received. The U.S. was split into colored and non-colored but “states
had troubles determining where to draw the line”(“Plessy v Ferguson.” History,
1:05-1:15). White people who thought they were better were reassured by
Ferguson that they were better. This led to the mistreatment of many non-white
people before the Brown v Board decision. Furthermore, the ruling affected the
economy through the requirement of multiple buildings. Even if the quality of
the space created for the black people was poor and run down, it did not mean
that having to add more space on top of what you already have is was
less expensive. The ruling increased costs of owning a restaurant or any other
business. There was an unreasonable expectation that businesses would double
the size of their eating or shopping area, because the spaces had to be
somewhat equal. This was very inefficient and caused monetary loss for both
blacks and white people. These problems were nationwide, but you can
find better examples of these effects in local areas like Little Rock.
Beals says, “at five… I gathered up the money to ride…the man shouted, ‘You
don’t belong here, picaninny!'”(8). This shows that even the youngest of black
people were treated with disrespect. This had a big effect on Melba’s life. This
was her first experience with the harsh segregation and hate between races. The
encounter at the merry-go-round forced Melba to grow up faster. On top of that,
the main reason why the integration of the Little Rock 9 (LR9) into Central
High was so difficult was because of Plessy v. Ferguson. When segregation
became legalized, it widened the chasm between the blacks and the whites in
education. This chasm was forcibly closed by LR9 after they experienced a great
deal of struggle and suffering.
Plessy v. Ferguson created a slippery
slope, ending with forced integration. It ended up causing great pain for many
people and in many ways ended up being a step backwards for civil rights.
Plessy v. Ferguson was not a good thing, but out of it came Brown v. Board and
a new hope for the next generation to finally end racial inequality.
“Plessy v Ferguson.” History. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/plessy-v-ferguson
. Accessed 1 Dec, 2017.
Beals, Melba. “Warriors Don’t Cry.”
Avenue of Americas, New York: Washington Square Press. 1994.
“Transcript of Plessy v. Ferguson.”
3 Dec, 2017.