Today Governor John Bel Edwards took the historic action of signing Louisiana’s first posthumous pardon of Mr. Homer A. Plessy, who was convicted of violating the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890, whose purpose was to ensure racial segregation as a means of promoting white supremacy. Governor Edwards was joined by descendants of Homer A. Plessy, Judge John Harlan and Judge John Ferguson, as well as University of the South professor of law Angela Bell, the Orleans District Attorney. Jason Williams, civil rights leaders and a number of state and local communities. elected officials.
“The first six decades of the 21st century should have been filled with infinitely more promise and progress in race relations, and they would have been if slavery and segregation had given way to equality and freedom as a simple reading of the 13th and 14th Amendments required, ”Governor Edwards said. “Instead, the 1896 Plessy ruling ordered segregation for the express purpose of declaring and perpetuating white supremacy, immoral and factually flawed as it was – and is. The fictitious notion of “separate but equal” remained with us until the United States Supreme Court re-examined the issue in 1954 in the context of public education and implicitly overturned Plessy. Mr Plessy’s conviction should never have taken place. But, there is no expiration on justice. No issue is ever resolved until it is properly resolved. It is with great joy that I forgive Homer Plessy today and settle this matter. We still have a long way to go when it comes to equality and justice, but this forgiveness is certainly a step in the right direction.
On June 7, 1892 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mr. Homer A. Plessy purchased a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad Company train to Covington when the conductor asked him to leave and s ‘sit in the “colorful car”. as required by the Separate Car Act of 1890. When he refused, he was arrested. The constitutionality of his arrest was challenged by Louis A. Martinet, Albion Tourgee and other members of the Citizens Committee (Citizens Committee) to test the recently enacted racial segregation laws in Louisiana. The United States Supreme Court heard Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 and ruled that the Constitution permitted legally enforced segregation on the basis of race. This enabled the enactment of a series of laws by the southern states that created the Jim Crow regime.
Notably, Plessy’s criminal conduct in 1892 was virtually the same as Rosa Park’s courageous protest sixty-three years later in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, when she refused to leave a seat reserved for white riders.
Homer Plessy died in 1925. In recognition of the 125th anniversary of Mr. Plessy’s conviction by plea in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, an application was made to the Louisiana Pardons Council and the Governor John Bel Edwards for Mr. Plessy to receive a full Governor pardon. It was submitted by Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams, the same office that sought Mr. Plessy’s conviction.
“It was important that the office that sued Homer Plessy was the office to ask for his name to be pardoned,” Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams said. “While Homer’s actions made him guilty of a crime under the law, it was the law that was the real crime. I applaud Governor Edwards for pardoning Homer Plessy and for placing this stain on our state’s history so that we can become a more just Louisiana.
The Avery C. Alexander Act, drafted by former Louisiana State Senator Edwin Murray of New Orleans, created an expedited application process for posthumous pardons. Mr. Plessy meets all the criteria of the law.
“With the stroke of a pen, Governor John Bel Edwards is opening a new chapter in the legacy of Homer Adolph Plessy,” said Keith Plessy, descendant of Homer Plessy. “This historic posthumous pardon is proof that 125 years after his conviction, the state of Louisiana recognizes and honors Plessy for his role in opening the doors to the civil rights movement of the 20th century.
“We cannot right the wrongs of the past, but when our government officials recognize them publicly and take action to legally correct them, we give hope to this generation and the next, who will continue to be first. line in the fight for justice and fairness in America, ”said Phoebe Ferguson, descendant of Judge John H. Ferguson.
“On behalf of the Harlan descendants, I am honored to be part of this historic Homer Plessy forgiveness, which represents a milestone in progress and healing,” said Kate Dillingham. “Our family has always appreciated the lonely but vigorous dissent of our great-great-grandfather, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, in Plessy v. Ferguson. He was deeply committed to fairness, equality and justice under the law, and we are moved to see this redress of a profound wrong that he identified 125 years ago.