State Watch

Louisiana governor to pardon Homer Plessy 130 years after arrest

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Wednesday will issue a pardon for civil rights activist Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case that advanced the “separate but equal” doctrine in the U.S.

In 1892, Plessy, a Creole man who described himself as being of mostly white descent, bought a first-class train ticket with the expectation that he would be arrested or forced off of the train. When asked by the conductor if he was a “colored” man, Plessy responded that he was and refused to move out of the first-class car, saying that he intended on staying in the car that he had paid for.

The train was then stopped and Plessy was dragged off the car by the conductor, who was helped by some other passengers. He was held in jail overnight and charged with violating the Separate Car Act.

Now roughly 130 years later, Edwards has planned a pardoning ceremony to be held near the spot where Plessy was arrested. Relatives of both Plessy and the judge who convicted him — Judge John Howard Ferguson — are expected to be in attendance, according to Edwards’s office.

This will mark the first posthumous pardon under the Avery C. Alexander Act, a Louisiana bill which grants pardons to people who were convicted of violating laws that enforced racial segregation.

Plessy ultimately appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in a 7-1 majority against Plessy. The court ruled that Plessy’s constitutional rights had not been violated because the accommodations provided to both races on the train were equal.

This decision effectively solidified the Jim Crow era and brought about a period of racial segregation in the U.S.

It would not be until 1954 when the Supreme Court would rule in Brown v. Board of Education that the separate but equal doctrine was inherently unequal, though the resistance toward desegregation would continue for decades afterward.

Tags Brown v. Board of Education Homer Plessy Jim Crow laws John Bel Edwards Louisiana Plessy v. Ferguson Race legislation in the United States Separate but equal Separate Car Act United States Supreme Court cases
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