Typically told in terms of reconstruction and establishing rights of black Americans after the Civil War, an 1873 court decision about the meat industry was hugely impactful.
1868 the 14th Amendment is passed to provide emancipated slaves with citizen rights that had been denied them by American slaveholders.
1869 a lawsuit was brought in New Orleans to test the 14th and five years later (1873), the Slaughterhouse Cases were decided in Supreme Court.
Note the subtle reference to contamination of New Orleans drinking water in this retelling:
The Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) was a supreme court case which became the first to interpret the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. After slaughterhouse practices continued to contaminate New Orleans drinking water, Louisiana state legislature passed an act that allowed the city to create a company which essentially monopolized the slaughterhouse industry. All butchers interested in slaughtering meat had to do so at Crescent City Livestock Landing and Slaughterhouse Company. The Butchers’ Benevolent Association, an organization of New Orleans butchers, assembled in multiple cases to sue on the grounds that the government, by creating the company, violated their privileges or immunities and deprived them of their liberty and property without due process as protected by the fourteenth amendment. Additionally, they claimed that Crescent city violated the 13th amendment, referring to their actions as “involuntary servitude.” They appealed after losing in all trial cases. The supreme court affirmed and held that neither their 13th or 14th amendment rights had been violated. The narrow reading of Privileges or Immunities in The Slaughterhouse Cases rendered the clause nearly insignificant.
Newly developing science of healthy water found that white slaughterhouse companies were in the practice of systemically wronging black neighborhoods by dumping waste upstream.
A city tried to regulate that practice by organizing the system generating harms, much in how today we have sewer systems designed to route waste away from drinking water, and “wet market” (slaughterhouse) regulation for health and safety.
In response, powerful lawyers who had served the secessionist military created a claim for white butchers that they were being treated as slaves when slaughterhouses were regulated for safety (assets taken and controlled).
They very strategically then fought a pitched legal battle that would remove new protections of freed slaves. The Supreme Court ended up extremely narrowly defining rights and protections from the 14th Amendment.
…in limiting the protection of the privileges and immunities clause, the court unwittingly weakened the power of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the civil rights of blacks.
When someone in US says they want to pollute downstream as their privilege and refuse to wear a mask on the principle that to do so would be “slavery”… please remember this was a tactic started by white supremacist lawyers in 1873 to destroy black civil rights.