Plessy v. Ferguson: Separate but Equal 1896

Plessy v. Ferguson: Separate but Equal 1896

Plessy v. Ferguson: Separate but Equal 1896
This memorial plaque is at the corner of Press and Royal Streets in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Homer Plessy was arrested.
Plessy v. Ferguson: Separate but Equal 1896

Homer Plessy (1863–1925), Henry Billings Brown (1836–1913),

John Marshall Harlan (1833–1911)

The historic 1896 United States Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson established the validity of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” theory. The lawsuit came from an event in which Homer Plessy, an African American railway passenger, refused to seat in a car reserved for Black people in 1892.

The Supreme Court rejected Plessy’s claim that his constitutional rights had been infringed, ruling that a legislation that “implies only a juridical distinction” between white and black persons is not unconstitutional. As a result, Jim Crow laws and segregated public accommodations for people of different races were popular.

Plessy v. Ferguson: Background and Context

Following the removal of federal soldiers from the South as a result of the 1877 Compromise, Democrats secured control of state legislatures across the area, essentially ending Reconstruction.

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New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893
The inaugural meeting of the National Council of Women in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1896.
New Zealand Women’s Suffrage 1893

Mary Ann Müller (c. 1820–1901), Kate Sheppard (1847–1934),

David Boyle, 7th Earl of Glasgow (1833–1915)

Mary Ann Müller of Nelson, New Zealand, produced and distributed booklets campaigning for women’s rights under the alias Femmina in 1869. Sixteen years later, in 1885, the United States’ Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) established fifteen branches in New Zealand, continuing Müller’s effort.

Kate Sheppard of Christchurch was named national franchise superintendent and leader of the women-focused national organization two years later. Sheppard gathered a lot of support and publicity for the group by enlisting the help of well-known people from all around the country.

On September 19, 1893, David Boyle, 7th Earl of Glasgow signed the Electoral Bill, making New Zealand the first self-governing nation in the world to provide women the right to vote. Years of gatherings in towns and cities around the country resulted in the Bill, with women traveling long distances to hear lectures and speeches, pass resolutions, and sign petitions. From the early 1880s through 1893, a number of petitions were presented to both Houses of Parliament.

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The Sherman Antitrust Act 1890

The Sherman Antitrust Act 1890

The Sherman Antitrust Act 1890
Senator John Sherman of Ohio, principal author of The Sherman Antitrust Act 1890

John Sherman (1823–1900)

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed on July 2, 1890, was the first federal law to prohibit monopolistic corporate activities.

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the first legislation to abolish trusts in the United States. Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who served as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and Secretary of the Treasury under President Hayes, was honored with the name. Similar legislation had been established in other states, but they were only applicable to intrastate firms.

The Sherman Antitrust Act was enacted in response to Congress’ constitutional authority to control interstate trade. (See earlier milestone documents: the Constitution, Gibbons v. Ogden, and the Interstate Commerce Act for additional information.) On April 8, 1890, the Senate enacted the Sherman Anti-Trust Act 51–1, and on June 20, 1890, the House passed it unanimously by a vote of 242–0. On July 2, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed the measure into law.

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The Right to Privacy 1890 Harvard

The Right to Privacy 1890

The Right to Privacy 1890 Harvard
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Louis Brandeis (c. 1916) had a major influence on law pertaining to the right to privacy.
The Right to Privacy 1890 Harvard

Louis Brandeis (1856–1941), Samuel Warren (1852–1910)

Louis Brandeis (1856–1941) – an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939

Samuel Warren (1852–1910) – a Boston attorney.

“The Right to Privacy,” authored by future Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis and his then-colleague Samuel Warren, was published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890.

The United States Constitution is a living document. Despite the fact that our founding documents were written in the pre-Industrial 18th century, they were intended to adapt to times when technology such as phonographs and photographs, telegraphs and telephones, audio-visual recordings and transmission, the digital era, and the Internet were still unknown.

Certain inalienable rights, such as the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If such rights are not directly and expressly protected by legislation, laws, and regulations, the conclusion must be that they are covered by a common law reality. The roots of a right to privacy, as well as a right to be free of harassment and exposure, may be found in the common law.

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Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act 1888

The Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act 1888

Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act 1888
Slaves on a coffee farm in Brazil, c. 1885, in a photograph by Marc Ferrez.
Brazilian Slave Emancipation Act 1888

Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil (1846–1921)

Brazilian Princess Isabel of Bragança signed Imperial Law number 3,353 on May 13, 1888. It is one of the most important pieces of law in Brazilian history, despite having just 18 words. It was known as the “Golden Law” since it eliminated slavery in all of its manifestations. Slavery was at the center of the Brazilian economy for 350 years.

According to historian Emilia Viotti da Costa, Brazil was home to 40% of the 10 million enslaved Africans carried to the New World. Enslaved people were so important to the economy that Ina von Binzer, a German schoolteacher who resided in Brazil in the late 1800s, wrote: “The Blacks hold the principal function in this country.” They are the ones that perform all of the labor and generate all of the money in this country. “It’s just not working with the white Brazilian.”

Abolition had the support of the majority of Brazilians by 1888, including numerous conservative groups, marking the end of a lengthy period of societal and economic transformation. Slavery had already begun to decline by the time it was abolished, due to agricultural modernisation and increased migration from rural regions to Brazil’s cities.

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The Interstate Commerce Act 1887

The Interstate Commerce Act 1887

The Interstate Commerce Act 1887
Unfair and haphazard business practices by the railroad companies prompted Congress to enact the Interstate Commerce Act. Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) took this photo of a trestle on the Central Pacific Railroad in 1877.
The Interstate Commerce Act 1887

The Interstate Commerce Act, passed on February 4, 1887, established an Interstate Commerce Commission to monitor the railroad industry’s operations. The railways were the first industry to be regulated by the federal government as a result of this act.

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 made railways the first business to be regulated by the federal government. The law was primarily enacted in reaction to public demand for train activities to be controlled. The legislation also established the Interstate Commerce Commission, a five-member enforcement body. Railroads were privately owned and uncontrolled in the years following the Civil War. In the areas that they solely served, train firms had a natural monopoly.

Monopolies are often thought to be bad because they inhibit free competition, which affects the price and quality of goods and services available to the general population. In some geographic areas, railroad monopolies possessed the capacity to set prices, exclude rivals, and dominate the market. Although railroads competed for long-haul routes, there was little rivalry for short-haul ones. By granting rebates to major shippers or purchasers, railroads discriminated in the rates they charged passengers and shippers in various areas. These techniques were particularly detrimental to American farmers, who lacked the requisite export volume to gain better rates.

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Equal Protection Rights 1886

Equal Protection Rights 1886

Equal Protection Rights 1886
In 1880, a San Francisco law specifically targeted Chinese laundries like this one, precipitating a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that extended the Constitution’s equal protection clause to all American residents.
Equal Protection Rights 1886

Yick Wo v. Hopkins

Facts of the case

In 1880, the city of San Francisco passed a law requiring all laundries in wooden structures to have a permit granted by the city’s Board of Supervisors. The board had complete control over who received a permission. Despite the fact that Chinese workers operated 89 percent of the city’s laundry companies, no Chinese owners were given a permit. Yick Wo and Wo Lee ran washing companies without a permission and were imprisoned by the city’s sheriff, Peter Hopkins, after refusing to pay a $10 fee.

Each filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that the ordinance’s fines and unequal enforcement violated their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court of California and the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, respectively, dismissed claims for Yick Wo and Wo Lee, citing the law’s nondiscriminatory nature on its face.

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