Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In 1896, the Supreme Court endorsed the “separate but equal” doctrine in the transportation context in Plessy v. Ferguson,1 but after the Court dismissed the doctrine’s applicability in education in Brown v. Board of Education, the Court revisited the doctrine in transportation.2 Even before Brown, the Court had found that a state statute that permitted carriers to provide sleeping and dining cars for white persons only violated equal protection;3 held that a carrier’s provision of unequal, or nonexistent, first class accommodations to Black travelers violated the Interstate Commerce Act;4 and voided state-required segregation on interstate carriers as a burden on commerce.5 In 1960, the Court in Boynton v. Virginia overturned a trespass conviction of an interstate Black bus passenger who had refused to leave a restaurant.6 The Court determined that the restaurant, essential to the facilities devoted to interstate commerce, fell under the Interstate Commerce Act.
- Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).
- Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483 (1954); Gayle v. Browder, 352 U.S. 903 (1956), aff’g 142 F. Supp. 707 (M.D. Ala.) (statute requiring segregation on buses is unconstitutional). In Bailey v. Patterson, the Court stated: “We have settled beyond question that no State may require racial segregation of interstate transportation facilities. This question is no longer open; it is foreclosed as a litigable issue.” 369 U.S. 31, 33 (1962).
- McCabe v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 235 U.S. 151 (1914). The Court did not enjoin the state statute, however, concluding that plaintiffs lacked standing. Id.
- Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941); see also Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950) (holding railroad’s segregation policies violated the Interstate Commerce Act.
- Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946); Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950).
- 364 U.S. 454 (1960).