There was a Separate Car Act in Louisiana that forced blacks and whites to sit in separate train cars. Anyone who broke this law had to pay a fine or go to jail.
Ferguson Says Act is Constitutional
Plessy Ferguson violated this act by deciding to sit in a whites only car. He sat there purposely to protest the law. The railroad officials arrested him on the spot.
Plessy Takes Case to Louisiana Supreme Court
During his court case, Plessy argued that the Separate Car Act was unconstitutional as it violated the 13th and 14th Amendment (specifically the 14th). The 14th states that all US citizens must have equal rights. This law segregates the races despite them being "separate but equal."
They Also Rule Act as Constitutional
The Judge hearing this case was John Ferguson. He said that the act was only unconstitutional if the cars went out of state and it's constitutional within the boundaries of Louisiana. Interstate travel can be based on state laws rather than the federal ICC.
Plessy still angered by the court's response takes his case to the Lousisiana Supreme Court. The case of Plessy vs Ferguson uses the name of John Ferguson because he was part of the initial lawsuit.
These judges then concluded the same thing as Ferguson: that the act is constitutional within state borders. They said "segregation isn't lawful discrimination."