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United States Supreme Court

2008

Fourteenth Amendment

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Public Rights, Social Equality, And The Conceptual Roots Of The Plessy Challenge, Rebecca J. Scott Jan 2008

Public Rights, Social Equality, And The Conceptual Roots Of The Plessy Challenge, Rebecca J. Scott

Articles

This Article argues that the test case that gave rise to the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson is best understood as part of a wellestablished, cosmopolitan tradition of anticaste activism in Louisiana rather than as a quixotic effort that contradicted nineteenth-century ideas of the boundaries of citizens' rights. By drawing a dividing line between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and social rights, on the other, the Supreme Court construed challenges to segregation as claims to a "social equality" that was beyond the scope of judicially cognizable rights. The Louisiana constitutional convention of 1867-68, however, had defined ...