The governor of Louisiana has agreed to posthumously pardon the man whose arrest in 1892 led to the landmark “separate but equal” Supreme Court ruling that kept Black people in segregated schools, housing and most public venues.
Homer Plessy was pardoned by Gov. John Bel Edwards Wednesday (January 5) in a ceremony near the spot where the 30-year-old shoemaker was arrested for challenging the law that prohibited Black people from sitting on “whites-only” train cars.
The posthumous pardon comes nearly 125 years to the date of Plessy’s guilty plea in the New Orleans trial. The effort to get the pardon was led by the descendants of Plessy and John Howard Ferguson –– the judge who convicted him.
“Hopefully, this will give some relief to generations who have suffered under discriminatory laws,” Phoebe Ferguson, the judge’s great-great-granddaughter told The Associated Press.
Today @LouisianaGov will officially wipe Homer Plessy’s record, pardoning him for his so-called crime of sitting in a “whites only” train car in 1892.
Let this long overdue action be a symbol of progress in the long, continuing fight for civil rights.
Proud to witness history. pic.twitter.com/yJ5n63AHJ4
— Congressman Troy A. Carter (@RepTroyCarter) January 5, 2022
The Louisiana Board of Pardons recommended the pardon for Plessy on November 12.
At the time of his arrest, Plessy boarded the train as a member of a small civil rights group who were hoping to get the law overturned. Instead, the US Supreme Court handed down the 1896 “separate but equal” ruling that was ultimately overturned in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.
Homer Plessy died in 1925 with the conviction on his record. Decades later, his family and the Ferguson’s formed a friendship and later created a civil rights education nonprofit.