Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2004

Abstract

Rebecca J. Scott explores the historical context of Plessy v. Ferguson to two ends. First, Scott argues that that the historical situation, including everyday legal practice, helps us understand the source of the arguments in the case. In particular, the plaintiffs based their understanding of their rights in the French revolution, the Louisiana Constitution, and their experience exercising their rights through notaries. Second, Scott argues that the plaintiffs and defendants sought to frame the case with different rights. For the plaintiffs, the issue with the Separate Car Act was "public rights" and "the dignity of citizenship." The defendants instead framed the case as an issue of African Americans seeking "social equality."