‘Separate but Equal’ Homer Plessy Pardon Decision Goes to Governor

(NEW ORLEANS) — A Louisiana board on Friday voted to pardon Homer Plessy, the namesake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896 “separate but equal” ruling affirming state segregation laws.

The state Board of Pardon’s unanimous decision to clear the Creole man’s record of a conviction for refusing to leave a whites-only train car in New Orleans now goes to Gov. John Bel Edwards has the final word on the pardon.

Plessy was arrested in 1892 after boarding the train car as part of a civil rights’ group’s efforts to challenge a state law that mandated segregated seating.

In a ruling by the Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson that state racial segregation laws didn’t violate the Constitution as long as the facilities for the races were of equal quality.

Continue reading: Jim Crow’s Forgotten Northern Origins

Plessy was convicted of violating Separate Car Act in 1995 and fined $25. With the conviction on his record, he was still alive when he passed away in 1925.

John Howard Ferguson was the judge that oversaw Descendants from Plessy’s case at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. John Howard Ferguson became friends with them decades later, and they formed a non-profit advocating for civil rights education.

Other recent efforts have acknowledged Plessy’s role in history, including a 2018 vote by the New Orleans City Council to rename a section of the street where he tried to board the train in his honor.


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