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Blakeview: Homer Plessy, 125 years later

Plessy boarded a "whites-only" train car on June 7, 1892


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This week marks the 125th anniversary of the start of a legal journey that began in New Orleans and ended in the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 7, 1892, New Orleanian Homer A. Plessy boarded a "whites only" car of the East Louisiana Railroad bound for Covington. Although he had a first-class ticket, he was ordered off the "white" car when he told the railroad conductor he was one-eighth black. Plessy, who had light skin, was a member of a group called the Comite des Citoyens, which orchestrated the act of civil disobedience in an effort to repeal Louisiana's Separate Car Act of 1890, which required separate accommodations for blacks and whites on railroads. Plessy's great-grandmother was from Africa, so he was classified as black by law and was required to sit in the "colored" railroad car. He refused and was arrested at Press and Royal streets. After a night in jail, Plessy appeared in criminal court before Judge John Howard Ferguson. Plessy unsuccessfully argued the law was unconstitutional. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a famous 1896 ruling allowed for "separate but equal" public facilities for blacks and whites. That ruling was overturned in 1954 in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. Plessy died in 1925. In 2009, members of his family and relatives of Judge Ferguson attended the unveiling of a historical marker at Press and Royal Streets, near the former site of the railway station.


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