U.S. History/14th Amendment


How did the civil-rights cases of 1883 and Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) substantially negate the effect of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment?

The Civil Rights Cases of 1883 essentially held that the Equal Protection clause only applied to government action, not private citizens.  Government could not compel private businesses to cater to all people regardless of race.  Plessy held that while government was compelled to provide equal protection, it could provide separate government facilities and services based on race, as long as those facilities and services were equal.  These holdings along did not completely negate the effects of the 14th Amendment, but they certainly very much limited its scope.  Future failures to enforce even the requirement that separate facilities truly be equal led to very unequal treatment of members of minority groups.

I hope this helps!
- Mike

U.S. History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.