On June 7, 1892, a colored shoemaker named Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the "white" car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy was only one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, but under Louisiana law, he was considered black due to the trace amounts of "black" blood, and was therefore required to sit in the "colored" car. Plessy refused to move, and the conductor had him forced off of the train and arrested. Plessy went to court and argued, in Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The judge at the trial was John Howard Ferguson, a lawyer from Massachusetts who had previously declared the Separate Car Act "unconstitutional on trains that traveled through several states." In Plessy's case, however, he decided that the state could choose to regulate railroad companies that operated only within Louisiana. He found Plessy guilty of refusing to leave the white car. Plessy appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld Ferguson's decision. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy's case and found him guilty once again. However, the majority and the dissenting opinions reflect a very different set of viewpoints, one which supports the "separate but equal" decision that had been informally in place for years, and another which rejected segregation and urged people to realize that the United States Constitution guarantees certain rights and privileges to all who are American citizens and that through the "separate but equal" clause, African Americans were being denied what has been guaranteed to be given to them. .
Speaking for a seven-person majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: .
"That [the Separate Car Act] does not conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.is too clear for argument.A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races -- a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color -- has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races.