What Happened to Plessy?
Transportation has long been a flash point in the struggle for racial equality in America. In 1896, the Supreme Courts Plessy v. Ferguson decision declared racial segregation legal. For the next half century, until 1954s Brown v. Board of Education reversed Plessy, the doctrine of separate but equal was the law of the land.
After 1954, segregation remained a common practice. Mass protests against segregated transportation helped create the modern civil rights movement. The Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955-56 showed the power of nonviolent direct action and encouraged other forms of protest against institutionalized racism.
Transportation issues remained at the forefront of the movement when it entered the next stage: making sure that the new laws were being applied. In 1961, integrated groups of activists calling themselves Freedom Riders boarded buses and traveled into the South to see if bus stations were desegregated as ordered. The Freedom Riders were attacked as they traveled, and one of their buses was burned in Alabama. But their efforts pressured the federal government to make states comply with desegregation laws.
Because of these kinds of protests over transportation, laws and social customs began to change throughout the segregated South.