The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation
W.W. Norton & Company 2019
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 22, 2019 Ian J. Drake
Steve Luxenberg has created an unusual history of the famous Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson and the 19th century’s segregationist practices in his book Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation (Norton, 2019). It is unusual because it is chiefly an ensemble biography of Henry Brown, John Marshall Harlan, and Albion Tourgee, three men intimately connected with the Plessy case. The book covers the Antebellum period youth of the three men, each from a different part of the young nation and each encountering freedmen, slaves, and the institution of slavery in different social and political contexts. We follow these men through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the post-Reconstruction period leading up to the Plessy decision. The Plessy case helped solidify official, state-enforced segregationist practices throughout the United States. It made the now-infamous phrase “separate but equal” a constitutional doctrine that was the law of the land until the 1950s and 1960s.
Ian J. Drake is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Law at Montclair State University. His scholarly interests include American legal and constitutional history and political theory.