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Plessy of Plessy v. Ferguson ’separate but equal’ Granted Posthumous Pardon 125 Years Later

Homer Plessy of the Plessy v Ferguson case plus a photo of a news article about the case

Updated 1/12/2022

On Friday, November 11, 2021, Louisiana’s Board of Pardons voted in favor of pardoning Homer Plessy. To make the pardon official, Gov. John Bel Edward will have to add his signature to the document. 

On January 5, 2022 Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards added his signature to the document granting Plessy a posthumous pardon nearly 125 years later. 

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Who was Homer Plessy?

Homer Plessy is historically known for being a plaintiff in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. In this case, he challenged the Louisiana Separate Car Act (1890) by refusing to move from a “whites only” train car.

Plessy was the VP of the Justice, Protective, Educational and Social Club. He collaborated with the Comité des Citoyens (Citizens’ Committee) organization to challenge the Louisiana Separate Car Act. Together they planned to challenge the law with Plessy boarding the “white only” car of the train.

Plessy’s Train Ride

On Tuesday, June 7, 1892 Plessy purchased a first-class train ticket on the “whites only” car.  According to PBS, train conductors were trained to ask, ”Are you a colored man?”, which Plessy responded with ‘Yes’. Plessy appeared White, but identified as one-eighth Black and seventh-eighth White. He was asked to move to the colored cart. Once he refused, he was arrested and charged with violating the Louisiana Separate Car Act

Plessy v. Ferguson 

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Sign Marking site where Homer Plessy was arrested in regards to the Plessy v. Ferguson case

The Citizens Committee hired Albion Tourgee as their lawyer to take the case to Louisiana Court. The lawyer argued that the arrest was going against Plessy’s 13th and 14th amendment rights. On November 18, 1892 Judge Ferguson ruled against Plessy. His decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the law did not violate the 13th or 14th amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 13th amendment was not violated because it did not reimpose slavery and 14th amendment was not violated because judges decided the amendment only applies to political and civil rights, not to social rights. Read the Plessy v. Ferguson case, here.

Years later, the “separate, but equal” doctrine was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.

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