In a case of severely belated justice, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced that he will issue a posthumous pardon to Homer Plessy, the Black man whose 1896 arrest led to the infamous U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed government-enforced racial segregation.
What Happened: Plessy was a member of New Orleans’ French-speaking Creole population who worked as a shoemaker in 1892 when he agreed to a request by the Citizens’ Committee, a local civil rights group, to challenge the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Separate Car law that segregated train passengers by race.
On June 7, 1892, the 30-year-old Plessy purchased a first-class ticket on a train in New Orleans and sat in the passenger car set aside for whites. Plessy was of mixed race heritage, but his light skin tone enabled him to pass for white. He announced his racial identity to the conductor collecting passenger tickets and refused to follow orders to move to the train car for Blacks. He was arrested and briefly jailed.
The incident became the court case of Plessy v. Ferguson and made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 7-1 that the segregation of races was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as long as facilities provided to different races were equality in content and quality — the doctrine of “separate but equal,” which remained the law of the land until the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education that ruled school segregation by race was unconstitutional.
What Happened Next: Plessy lived with the criminal charge against him for the rest of his life, working odd jobs until his death in 1925.
According to the Associated Press, Edwards plans to conduct a pardon ceremony on Wednesday in New Orleans near the spot where Plessy was arrested. Relatives of both Plessy and Judge John Howard Ferguson, who initially ruled against him in 1892, will be attendance.
“Hopefully, this will give some relief to generations who have suffered under discriminatory laws,” said Phoebe Ferguson, the judge’s great-great-granddaughter.
Photo: Historic marker on the site where Homer Plessy was arrested in 1892; no photograph of Plessy is known to exist. Photo by Skywriter / Wikimedia Commons.
© 2022 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.