Constitutional Law. Under the separate but equal doctrine, legally mandated racial segregation does not violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution so long as the separate accommodations provided are “equal.”
“Separate but equal” is sometimes described as an “ancient” doctrine of constitutional law. But its antiquity dates not from the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 but from a judicial expression set forth in the infamous Supreme Court’s opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537 (1896). In Plessy, the Court read into the Fourteenth Amendment a qualification that enforced separation of white and colored persons in the use of public facilities did not violate the Amendment so long as the separate accommodations were “equal.”
In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the Supreme Court overturned Plessy, thereby abrogating the separate but equal doctrine as it applied to the Constitution. The Court in Brown held that racially segregated facilities were inherently unequal.