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Encyclopedia of Social Problems

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Encyclopedia of Social Problems

Vincent N. Parrillo

Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Plessy v. Ferguson

Robert Newby

One of the more notable events in U.S. history with regard to the status of African Americans was the 1896 Supreme Court ruling Plessy v. Ferguson . It legitimized African Americans' subordinate status in society, and cast segregation as a fundamental law of the land and made constitutional what became known as “second-class citizenship.” Even in colonial times, the status of Africans in “white America” was problematic. The shift from “nonracialized” indentured servitude in the early 1600s to “racialized” slavery by midcentury was a major status change for Africans, from human to chattel. Chattel refers to valuable property or investments that can be moved from place to place. These “investments” were equivalent to owning cows, horses, or other farm animals. Not even fighting in the Revolutionary War was sufficient for blacks to gain citizenship, as the nation's first citizenship law, the Immigration and Naturalization law of 1790, restricted citizenship extended ...

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