History and Historiography

Louisiana Governor posthumously pardons Plessy of the ‘separate but equal’ ruling

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s governor on Wednesday posthumously pardoned Homer Plessy, the Black man whose arrest for refusing to leave a whites-only railroad car in 1892 to protest racial segregation sparked the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that cemented “separate but equal” into law for half a century.

The state Board of Pardons in November recommended the pardon for Plessy, who boarded the rail car as a member of a small civil rights group hoping to overturn a state law segregating trains. Instead, the protest led to the 1896 ruling known as Plessy v. Ferguson, solidifying whites-only spaces in public accommodations such as transportation, hotels and schools for decades.

At a ceremony held near the spot near where Plessy was arrested, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was “beyond grateful” to help restore Plessy’s “legacy of the rightness of his cause … undefiled by the wrongness of his conviction.”

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