Separate but Equal Policy Law and Legal Definition

Separate but equal was a policy instituted in southern states which practiced segregation. Under the policy, African Americans and people of European descent were provided separate public facilities and services, such as schools, water fountains, and bathrooms.

The separate but equal policy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. Separate but equal education policies were overturned in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), when the Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities for blacks and whites at the state level, and a companion case outlawed such practices at the federal level in the District of Columbia.