HENDERSON V. UNITED STATES, 339 U. S. 816 (1950)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950)

Henderson v. United States

No. 25

Argued April 3, 1950

Decided June 5, 1950

339 U.S. 816


Under the rules of an interstate railroad, dining cars are divided so as to allot ten tables exclusively to white passengers and one table exclusively to Negro passengers, and a curtain separates the table reserved for Negroes from the others. Under these rules, only four Negro passengers may be served at one time, and then only at the table reserved for Negroes. Other Negroes who present themselves are compelled to await a vacancy at that table, although there may be many vacancies elsewhere in the diner. The rules impose a like deprivation upon white passengers whenever more than 40 of them seek to be served at the same time and the table reserved for Negroes is vacant.

Held: these rules and practices violate § 3(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act, which makes it unlawful for a railroad in interstate commerce "to subject any particular person . . . to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever." Pp. 339 U. S. 818-826.

(a) Having been subjected to the railroad's earlier practices which the Interstate Commerce Commission and the court below found violative of the Interstate Commerce Act, appellant, a Negro, has standing to challenge the railroad's current regulations on the ground that they permit the recurrence of comparable violations. P. 339 U. S. 823.

(b) The right to be free from unreasonable discriminations belongs, under § 3 (1) , to each particular person. P. 339 U. S. 824.

(c) The curtains, partitions and signs emphasizing the artificiality of a difference in treatment of passengers holding identical tickets and using the same public dining facility violate § 3(1). P. 339 U. S. 825.

(d) The limited demand for dining car facilities by Negro passengers does not justify the regulations. P. 339 U. S. 825.

(e) That the regulations may impose on white passengers, in proportion to their numbers, disadvantages similar to those imposed on Negro passengers does not validate them under § 3(1). Pp. 339 U. S. 825-826.

80 F.Supp. 32, reversed.

Page 339 U. S. 817

In a suit brought by appellant to set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, 269 I.C.C. 73, the three-judge District Court dismissed the complaint. 80 F.Supp. 32. On direct appeal to this Court, reversed and remanded, p. 339 U. S. 826.

Page 339 U. S. 818

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