The 30-year-old man of mixed-race heritage sat in the whites-only section of the train. When a conductor ordered him to move
to a dingy rail car reserved for blacks, he refused, was arrested and convicted at a trial.
The man appealed his case to the Supreme Court. Four years later, the court rejected his claim that sitting in a segregated train car stamped him with "a badge of servitude."
The New York Times published only two paragraphs on the 7-1 decision. But Homer Adolph Plessy, the man on the train, did not fade from history. Plessy v. Ferguson
eventually became known as one of the Supreme Court's most nakedly racist decisions. The 1896 ruling played a pivotal role in giving legal cover to Jim Crow segregation that would last for more than half a century.
It's hard today not to marvel at the casual cruelty of the Plessy decision. How could the court accept the transparent lie that blacks lived in separate but equal worlds with whites? And how could they give Constitutional sanction to a blatant display of racism?
You don't have to study history to answer those questions. Watch what happens this week when the US Supreme Court issues its decision on whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census
, some legal scholars and historians say.
They say the conservative majority on the court is on the verge of embracing