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Louisiana Pardon Board votes in favor of posthumous pardon for Homer Plessy

2 years 7 months 6 days ago Friday, November 12 2021 Nov 12, 2021 November 12, 2021 9:43 AM November 12, 2021 in News
Source: NOLA.com

In 1892, a French-speaking Creole person of color named Homer Plessy defied Louisiana's Separate Car Act by boarding a train car reserved for "Whites Only" and more than a century later, Plessy may receive a posthumous pardon.

When he was still alive, Plessy's case made its way to the Supreme Court, which upheld Louisiana's racist 'separate but equal' statute.

According to NOLA.com, he was fined $25, and died in 1925 with the conviction still on his record.

But during a Friday 9 a.m. hearing, the Louisiana Pardon Board voted in favor of a posthumous pardon for Plessy and their decision will be forwarded to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

As a member of the civil rights group the Comité des Citoyens (Citizens' Committee), Plessy engaged in a civil disobedience initiative against Louisiana's segregation laws by trying to travel in a whites-only passenger car.

Plessy, who was one-eighth African-American but appeared white, was arrested in New Orleans when he divulged his racial identity.

After this, he and the lawyers of the committee claimed violation of civil rights due to the state's racial segregation law.

Plessy's claim was dismissed and both the Louisiana State Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court upheld the infamous Jim Crow system and related laws.

The decision was reversed after the 1954 Supreme Court decision in 'Brown v. Board of Education' and then by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

NOLA.com notes that decades after Plessy’s death, his descendants and those of John Howard Ferguson, the judge who oversaw his case in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, became friends and formed a nonprofit foundation to advocate for civil rights education.

Several of those descendants added their names to a Nov. 5 letter to the Pardon Board alongside the signatures of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and the great, great-nephew of Louis Martinet, a 19th-century attorney who actively challenged segregation laws.

The pardon would be one of several efforts in recent years to acknowledge Plessy's role in history.

In 2018, the New Orleans City Council voted to rename the section of Press Street where Plessy tried to board the whites-only train to Homer Plessy Way.

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