The governor will pardon Plessy for a “separate but equal” decision

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Louisiana governor is set to posthumously pardon Homer Plessy on Wednesday, more than a century after the black man was arrested in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn a Jim Crow law creating train cars “Only for whites”.

The Plessy v Ferguson case went to the United States Supreme Court, which ushered in half a century of laws calling for “separate but equal” housing that kept blacks in schools, housing, theaters and more. other separate places.

Governor John Bel Edwards scheduled the pardon ceremony at a location near where Plessy was arrested in 1892 for breaking a Louisiana law requiring black people to ride in cars that the law described as “equal but distinct ”from those of white clients. The date is approaching the 125th anniversary of Plessy’s guilty plea in New Orleans.

Relatives of Plessy and the judge who sentenced him should be present at the ceremony.

It highlights New Orleans as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, said Keith Plessy, whose great-great-grandfather was Plessy’s cousin – Homer Plessy had no children.

“I hope this will bring some relief to generations who have suffered from discriminatory laws,” said Phoebe Ferguson, the judge’s great-great-granddaughter.

On November 12, the state Pardons Council recommended pardon for Plessy, who was a 30-year-old shoemaker when he boarded the wagon as a member of a small civil rights group in hope to overturn the law.

Instead, the 1896 ruling solidified white space in public housing until a later Supreme Court unanimously overturned it in Brown v Board of Education in 1954. Both cases were successful. argues that the segregation laws violated the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.

In Plessy, Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote for the 7-1 majority: “Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based on physical difference.

Dissenting Judge John Harlan wrote that he believed the ruling “will prove, over time, to be just as pernicious as this tribunal’s ruling in the Dred Scott case.”

This 1857 ruling declared that no black person who had been enslaved or descended from a slave could ever become a U.S. citizen. It was overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments, passed in 1865 and 1866.

Plessy lacked the business, political and educational accomplishments of most of the other group members trying to overturn the segregation law, Keith Weldon Medley wrote in the book “We As Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson”. But his fair skin – court documents described him as someone of whom “an eighth of African blood” was “not discernible” – positioned him for the train car protest.

“His only attribute was being white enough to access the train and black enough to be stopped for it,” Medley wrote.

Five blocks from the street where he was arrested, renamed Homer Plessy Way in 2018, crosses the campus of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. The ceremony was scheduled on campus, outside for COVID-19 security.

Eight months after the ruling in his case, Plessy pleaded guilty on January 11, 1897. He was fined $ 25 at a time when 25 cents would buy a pound of round steak and 10 pounds of potatoes. He died in 1925 with the conviction on record.

Relatives of Plessy and John Howard Ferguson, the judge who oversaw his case in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, became friends decades later and formed a nonprofit campaigning for the civic rights education.

Other recent efforts have recognized Plessy’s role in history, including a 2018 New Orleans city council vote to rename a section of the street where he attempted to board the train in his honor.

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