Black in the Day…Another Ban on Segregation

November 25, 1955:

On this day the Interstate Commerce Commission banned racial segregation on interstate buses, train lines, and in waiting rooms.

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a regulatory agency in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency’s original purpose was to regulate railroads (and later trucking) to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including interstate bus lines and telephone companies. Congress expanded ICC authority to regulate other modes of commerce beginning in 1906. Throughout the 20th century several of ICC’s authorities were transferred to other federal agencies. The ICC was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.

On November 25, 1955, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), a federal agency that regulates railroads and other transporters of goods, banned racial segregation on interstate buses, train lines, and in waiting rooms. The ICC ruled that “the disadvantages to a traveler who is assigned accommodations or facilities so designated as to imply his inferiority solely because of his race must be regarded under present conditions as unreasonable.” The ban was consistent with a 1946 United States Supreme Court decision, Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, which held that a state law requiring segregation on interstate buses traveling through the state was unconstitutional.

Despite the ruling, neither the Supreme Court decision nor the ICC ban covered intrastate travel, and thirteen states still required segregation on buses and railways that traveled exclusively within state borders. Some of these states ignored the new ban on segregated interstate travel and continued to enforce unconstitutional laws. 

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