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In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the best known of early segregation cases, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Homer Plessy, who was seven-eighths White and one-eighth Black, for attempting to sit in a public railway car reserved for Whites. In its analysis, the Court decided that distinctions based on race did not violate the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. By accepting the notion that “separate but equal” facilities met the requirements of the Constitution, the Court laid a firm legal basis for subsequent segregation, although the actual phrase “separate but equal” cannot be found in the Court's opinion. Plessy served as the foundation for sustaining the principle of racial segregation for over 50 years in maintaining that separate accommodations-including schools-did ...

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