Homer A. Plessy of ‘separate but equal’ court ruling posthumously pardoned

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“There is no expiration date on justice.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday posthumously pardoned civil rights leader Mr. Homer A. Plessy who challenged Louisiana’s segregation laws in the landmark civil rights Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.

“While this pardon has been a long time coming, we can all acknowledge this is a day that should have never had to happen,” the governor said at a press conference. “The subsequent Supreme Court case led to generations of inequity, has left a stain on the fabric of our country and on the state and on the city. And quite frankly those consequences are still felt today.”

On June 7, 1892, Plessy bought a first-class train ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad. As he boarded the train, Plessy sat in the “whites only” railcar. When the train conductor came by to collect his ticket, Plessy refused to move to the colored section. He was then arrested for violating the Separate Car Act of 1890. His appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost. The justices ruled that segregation in America was constitutional.

“Homer Plessy didn’t lose because his interpretation of the United States Constitution was unsound,” Southern University law professor Angela Allen Bell said at the pardoning ceremony. “Homer Plessy lost because the nation’s commitment to white supremacy was greater than its commitment to the aims of reconstruction or to the promises of the United States Constitution.”

She added, “There is no expiration date on justice.”

Keith Plessy, a relative of Plessy’s, addressed the crowd at the ceremony, saying, “This is truly a blessed day for the ancestors and elders, for our generation, today, for our children and for generations that have yet to be born. I feel like my feet are not touching the ground because the ancestors are carrying me.”