Louisiana government pardons Liberty rider Plessy vs Ferguson
Baton Rouge, no. — The Louisiana governor said Wednesday he would definitely sign a posthumous pardon for Homer Plessy, who ended up being arrested in 1892 for refusing to leave a “whites only” railroad car, a “separate but equal” US law for half a century.
Governor John Bel Edwards said he wanted relatives of people on both sides of Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed Jim Crow laws that discriminated against blacks, to be with him when he signed the pardon.
Keith Plessy, a descendant of one of Plessy’s cousins - Homer Plessy had no children – and Phoebe Ferguson, great-great-granddaughter of Justice John Ferguson, set up a foundation to advocate for civil rights education.
On his monthly radio show, Edwards said the pardon should call attention to how historic it is to divert that conviction from something that was clearly not a crime at all.
The 30-year-old shoemaker’s purchase of the ticket and his choice of seating arose from a late 19th-century effort to repeal the apartheid law. Instead, the US Supreme Court ruled in 1896 that as long as the accommodations were equal, it was okay to separate them. Thus, the resolution imposed sanctions on state and local governments by separating residences, neighborhoods, schools, transportation and other places of public residence.
Plessy pleaded guilty in 1897 to breaking the Separate Motor Act and paid a $25 fine. The conviction was on his record when he died in 1925.
The Louisiana Pardon Board voted unanimously Friday to recommend a pardon. Orleans County District Attorney Parish got the case before the Board of Directors at the request of Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson.
Keith Plessy told the Amnesty Board that members of a 20th century civil rights group told him that Homer Plessy was the first freedom racer.
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