• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that a state law prohibiting segregation could not be applied to carriers engaged in interstate commerce, which was under the exclusive supervision of Congress.

During Reconstruction, the Louisiana legislature passed a statute forbidding public carriers in the state from segregating passengers according to race. Josephine DeCuir, a black woman, was traveling in a steamboat between two Louisiana cities on the Mississippi River when she was refused admission into a cabin reserved for whites. After she won a damage award in state court, the company appealed the award.Interstate commerce;Hall v. DeCuir[Hall v. DeCuir]Segregation, de jure;Hall v. DeCuir[Hall v. DeCuir]

Speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, Chief Justice Morrison R. WaiteWaite, Morrison R.;Hall v. DeCuir[Hall v. DeCuir] held that the relevant carrier was involved in interstate commerce because it traveled to a neighboring state. Waite wrote, “If the public good requires such legislation, it must come from Congress and not from the states.” Justice Nathan Clifford’s concurring opinion anticipated the separate but equal doctrine. A few years later, the Court disregarded Hall’s broad view of interstate commerce when it overturned a federal ban on private discrimination in the Civil Rights Cases (1883).

Commerce, regulation of

Common carriers

Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York

Race and discrimination

Categories: History