Black History Fact #2: Integrated blood, segregated cars made Homer Plessy stand up for his rights

Imagine a man who is seven-eighths White and one-eighth Black. More than likely, he would be fair-skinned, enough to cause the naked eye to recognize him as White, and ignore the fact that he is indeed biracial. However, during the Jim Crow era, no matter your physical make-up, segregation was determined by a single drop of blood.

During the nadir of African Americans’ lives in the United States, there was a rule put in place called the one drop rule. In short, this rule was used to further segregate the nation by saying that no matter how many other races are in one’s gene-pool, if there is a single drop of African American blood, s/he would be forced to use “Blacks Only” facilities.

Although many Blacks acquiesced to this ridiculous rule, Homer Plessy, a man of one-eighth black descent, decided to fight against racism. On June 7, 1892, Plessy sat in a “Whites Only” train car without any dispute from other passengers. But, because of the Separate Car Act of 1890, all conductors were trained to ask their passengers, “Are you a colored man?” Plessy, being an honest man, answered yes, and was then ordered to move to the “Colored Car.” This is what prompted the well-known Plessy V. Ferguson case.

Fighting to prove that “separate but equal” was invalid and that his constitutional rights had been violated, Plessy nonetheless failed to win his case. The Supreme Court at the time stated that a state law that “‘implies merely a legal distinction’ between whites and blacks did not conflict with the 13th and 14th Amendments.” Later, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, this Supreme Court was shown to be on the wrong side of history, having their decision overruled by the later case’s ruling, given in 1954.