This decision combined five cases in which a Black person was denied the same accommodations as a White person, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Act guaranteed full and equal enjoyment of all facilities offered to the public, even if those facilities were privately run.

In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Act unconstitutional with the majority ruling that the federal government could not intervene in discriminatory actions among private parties.

In the one dissenting opinion, Justice Harlan argued against the narrow interpretation of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments and warned of the implications for reversing any emancipatory progress following the Civil War. Predictably, the ruling paved the way for legal racial segregation and discrimination until it was overturned in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968).

is it true that slavery cannot exist without law,

if abolishing slavery

has not

abolished the inequalities and badges of slavery

which were imposed by law, or by custom,

and no doubt


“It is true, that slavery cannot exist without law, any more than property in lands and goods can exist without law: and, therefore, the Thirteenth Amendment may be regarded as nullifying all State laws which establish or uphold slavery.”