The echoes of Plessy v. Ferguson have distorted our jurisprudence.
The doctrine of separate but equal expounded by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was a compromise of sorts. Though the most traumatic event in American history had affirmed that all men are created equal, and this had been codified in the postwar constitutional amendments, counter-reformational forces were advancing with increasing momentum to restore de facto the antebellum regime.
Thus, 31 years after the war, unable either simply to declare invalid the principles for which so much blood had been shed, or directly to face down the resistance to them, the Court invented the doctrine of separate but equal and pointed the nation away from the unambiguous meaning of Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom.” The invented rationale was an illogical and, in view of the amendments, literally illegitimate attempt to contradict them without blatantly saying so.
Fifty-eight years later, molded by expediency and politics, the Court unnecessarily conformed its decision in Brown v. Board of Education to the structure and certain assumptions of Plessy in order to refute them. Heavily relying on the notably unsteady ground of sociological data that by its very nature changes over time, Chief Justice Earl
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