TIME

The lessons of America’s worst moments

May 18, 1896: Segregation wins in Plessy v. Ferguson

In some ways, the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld Louisiana’s statute mandating segregation in all public facilities, was the nail in the coffin. Since 1876, the courts and Congress had eroded the Reconstruction Amendments’ promises to African Americans: suffrage, equal protection of the law and due process before the law. But the Plessy opinion and its embrace of “separate but equal” let African Americans know once and for all that despite those guarantees, their fundamental rights would not be protected.

was not overturned until we know that the letter of the law, and even the Constitution, is insufficient and potentially even meaningless if it is not applied fairly. We also know that some laws, like the segregation statute, contravene basic principles of the Constitution. Democracy requires that we do more than rely upon or simply follow the law; we have to insist upon virtuous laws, and passionately reject oppressive ones. History teaches us that if we sit idly by, even the most noble laws can be distorted by bigotry—and bigoted laws, left unchecked, can lead to immense suffering.

Вы читаете отрывок, зарегистрируйтесь, чтобы читать полное издание.

Другое от: TIME

TIME2 мин. чтения
Symbolic Gestures Of Support Aren’t Enough
For 8 min. 46 sec., “I can’t breathe,” the plaintive refrain of a prone and pleading George Floyd, commanded the screen of a ViacomCBS video. Amid nationwide protests after Floyd’s death and polls showing widespread support for Black Lives Matter, th
TIME4 мин. чтения
A New Era For Athletes
Sports are only just restarting after the COVID-19 shutdown. Yet a swell of athlete activism has already risen worldwide. Soccer stars and jockeys kneel for Black Lives Matter. College athletes fight for justice. A Black NASCAR driver seeks to banish
TIME12 мин. чтенияPolitics
Trench Lawfare
BLACK-CLAD SECURITY FORCES ARMED WITH RIOT SHIELDS advance on a mass of peaceful demonstrators. Rubber bullets and gas canisters fly. The embattled head of state, flanked by his top prosecutor and general, emerges from his estate to stake a claim for