Both scholarly and popular commentators have tended to overlook the 1878 U.S. Supreme Court case Hall v. DeCuir. Unlike the Court’s other postbellum cases, United States v. Cruikshank, the Civil Rights Cases, and, ultimately, Plessy v. Ferguson, that played a major role in thwarting the egalitarian revolution promised by the Fourteenth Amendment and Reconstruction-era Civil Rights legislation, DeCuir has existed in relative obscurity. Beermann goes a long way toward ending this neglect by bringing forth an enticing blend of legal and social history in The Journey to Separate but Equal.

DeCuir’s case signaled the not merely conservative but frankly pro-segregationist direction that the Court was ultimately to take in the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. The case involved the Court’s invalidation of an 1869 Louisiana statute prohibiting racial discrimination in public transportation, at least as it applied to steamships traveling interstate. Beermann provides a...

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