Louisiana board votes to pardon Homer Plessy of Plessy v. Ferguson

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2021-11-13 14:41Z by Steven

Louisiana board votes to pardon Homer Plessy of Plessy v. Ferguson

The Washington Post
2021-11-12

Gillian Brockell

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson, descendants of the principals in the Plessy v. Ferguson court case, in front of a historical marker in New Orleans on June 7, 2011. (Bill Haber/AP)

In the annals of the Supreme Court, the Plessy v. Ferguson case has little competition for the title of Worst Decision in History. Now, 125 years after the shameful decision that codified the Jim Crow-era “separate but equal” fiction, the namesake of that famous case, Homer Plessy, may be pardoned. The Louisiana Board of Pardons unanimously approved a pardon Friday, according to the Associated Press, sending it to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for final approval.

Edwards’s press office said the governor was traveling “but looks forward to receiving and reviewing the recommendation of the Board upon his return.”

When Keith Plessy, a descendant of Homer Plessy, heard the news, he felt like his feet “weren’t touching the ground.” He and his friend Phoebe Ferguson, a descendant of the judge in the case, hopped in the car and were driving across New Orleans to the house of another friend — Homer Plessy biographer Keith Weldon Medley — to share the news when they spoke with The Washington Post

Read the entire article here.

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Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Posted in Anthologies, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-29 01:09Z by Steven

Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Peter Lang
September 2021
366 pages
13 fig. b/w.
Paperback ISBN:978-2-8076-1625-7
ePUB ISBN:978-2-8076-1627-1 (DOI: 10.3726/b18256)

Edited by:

Hélène Charlery, Professor of English Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France

Aurélie Guillain, Professor of American Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France

Many recent studies of racial passing have emphasized the continuing, almost haunting power of racial segregation even in the post-segregation period in the US, or in the post-apartheid period in South Africa. This “present-ness” of racial passing, the fact that it has not really become “passé,” is noticeable in the great number of testimonies which have been published in the 2000s and 2010s by descendants of individuals who passed for white in the English-speaking world. The sheer number of publications suggest a continuing interest in the kind of relation to the personal and national past which is at stake in the long-delayed revelation of cases of racial passing.

This interest in family memoirs or in fictional works re-tracing the erasure of some relative’s racial identity is by no means limited to the United States: for instance, Zoë Wicomb in South Africa or Zadie Smith in the UK both use the passing novel to unravel the complex situation of mixed-race subjects in relation to their family past and to a national past marked by a history of racial inequality.

Yet, the vast majority of critical approaches to racial passing have so far remained largely focused on the United States and its specific history of race relations. The objective of this volume is twofold: it aims at shedding light on the way texts or films show the work of individual memory and collective recollection as they grapple with a racially divided past, struggling with its legacy or playing with its stereotypes. Our second objective has been to explore the great variety in the forms taken by racial passing depending on the context, which in turn leads to differences in the ways it is remembered. Focusing on how a previously erased racial identity may resurface in the present has enabled us to extend the scope of our study to other countries than the United States, so that this volume hopes to propose some new, transnational directions in the study of racial passing.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction – Hélène Charlery and Aurélie Guillain
  • Part I: Memories of Racial Passing – Reconstructing Local and Personal Histories – From Homer Plessy to Paul Broyard
    • To Pass or Not to Pass in New Orleans – Nathalie Dessens
    • Racial Passing at New Orleans Mardi Gras; From Reconstruction to the Mid- Twentieth Century: Flight of Fancy or Masked Resistance? – Aurélie Godet
    • Passing through New Orleans, Atlanta, and New York City: The Dynamics of Racial Assignation in Walter White’s Flight (1926) – Aurélie Guillain
    • African American Women Activists and Racial Passing: Personal Journeys and Subversive Strategies (1880s– 1920s) – Élise Vallier-Mathieu
  • Part II: Memory, Consciousness and the Fantasy of Amnesia in Passing Novels
    • “What Irene Redfield Remembered”: Making It New in Nella Larsen’s Passing – M. Giulia Fabi
    • Between Fiction and Reality: Passing for Non- Jewish in Multicultural American Fiction – Ohad Reznick
    • Experiments in Passing: Racial Passing in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Arthur Miller’s Focus – Ochem G.l.a. Riesthuis
    • Passing to Disappearance: The Voice/ Body Dichotomy and the Problem of Identity in Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing (2004) – Anne-Catherine Bascoul
  • Part III: Memories of Racial Passing within and beyond the United States: Towards a Transnational Approach
    • “The Topsy-Turviness of Being in the Wrong Hemisphere” Transnationalizing the Racial Passing Narrative – Sinéad Moynihan
    • Passing, National Reconciliation and Adolescence in Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002) and The Wooden Camera (Ntshaveni Wa Luruli, 2003) – Delphine David and Annael Le Poullennec
    • Transnational Gendered Subjectivity in Passing across the Black Atlantic: Nella Larsen’s Passing, Michelle Cliff ’s Free Enterprise and Zadie Smith’s Swing Time – Kerry-Jane Wallart
  • About the Authors/ Editors
  • Index
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Plessy v. Ferguson: An Excerpt from Firsthand Louisiana

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-15 02:06Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson: An Excerpt from Firsthand Louisiana

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press
2020-08-13

Devon Lord, Editor In Chief

Discover the history of the Pelican State through the eyes of the people who lived it and shaped its course. In Firsthand Louisiana: Primary Sources in the History of the State, historians Janet Allured, John Keeling, and Michael Martin have compiled dozens of important, interesting, devastating, and even entertaining firsthand accounts cover Louisiana’s history along with questions for further analysis and discussion. Below is an excerpt concerning the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision and its impact on Louisiana and the nation as a whole.

1896:PLESSY V. FERGUSON

The most important United States Supreme Court case to originate in Louisiana is Plessy v. Ferguson, which in 1896 affirmed the constitutionality of southern segregation laws. In 1890 the Louisiana legislature passed the state’s first segregation bill, the Separate Car Act, which required that railroads provide separate cars for white and black passengers. As a state senator from St. John the Baptist Parish, Henry Demas was one of four remaining African American Republicans in that chamber. In response to the act, leading members of the Afro-Creole community in New Orleans formed the Comité des Citoyens (Citizens Committee) to challenge the legality of the act. On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy bought a first-class train ticket from New Orleans to Covington and boarded the white passenger car. A private detective hired by the committee ensured that the conductor had him arrested for violating the Separate Car Act, and the test case began. After losing both in a local court and the Louisiana Supreme Court, the case was appealed to the US Supreme Court. In a 7–1 decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Separate Car Act, asserting, among other points, that it was a reasonable exercise of the state’s police power to maintain the health, safety, and morals of its citizens. Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan, however, saw through the reasoning behind the law and the majority opinion, and declared in the most famous dissenting opinion in the history of the Court that the decision established second-class citizenship for African Americans in the South. Through the “separate but equal” rule, that accommodations for each race had to be roughly the same in quality, Jim Crow laws came to dominate southern race relations until overturned fifty-eight years later by Brown v. Board of Education

Read the entire article here.

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Escape From Blackness: Once Upon a Time in Creole America

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-10-29 01:55Z by Steven

Escape From Blackness: Once Upon a Time in Creole America

The Village Voice
2019-12-04

Originally published on 1994-12-08 as “Fade to Black: Once Upon a Time in Multi-Racial America”

Joe Wood

“Growing up in New Orleans,” you told me later, “it would be impossible to see race as anything but socially constructed. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“METTÉ MILATE
ENHAUT CHOUAL,
LI VA DÎ NÉGRESSE PAS
SO MAMAN.”

“JUST PUT A
MULATTO ON HORSEBACK,
AND HE’LL TELL
YOU HIS MOTHER WASN’T
A NEGRESS.”

—Creole proverb, as translated
by Lafcadio Hearn, 1885

NEW ORLEANS — It was late and the show was finished. We were hungry and drunk. Adolph said Mulé’s was probably closed by now but he knew a place to eat on the other side of town. “Maybe you’ll see some of them over there, too,” he said. Adolph is a scholar of African American history and politics, and he was raised in New Orleans and knew how they looked and where they ate. They liked Mulé’s, a seventh-ward diner that serves the best oyster rolls in the city. The other place, Adolph said, was also good for observations, but far below seventh-ward culinary standards. It turned out to be an all-night fast-food joint, lighted too brightly, with a listless crowd of party people waiting in broken lines for some uninspired fried fare.

For a moment I forgot entirely about them and they. I wanted to try an oyster roll but there were none left, so I ordered a chicken sandwich “dressed” with lettuce and tomato and mayonnaise. The woman at the cash register seemed bored by my enthusiasm, and sighed, and in response I noted her skin color. She was dark. I turned my head and checked out two sleepy-eyed girls in the next line. They looked tired in their frilly prom dresses; their skin was waxen, the sad pale finish of moonlight. I knew — oh, I hesitated a moment, because I could see how a hasty eye might have thought them white, but I knew. Turning to Adolph I whispered “creole” and made giant drunken nod in their direction. Adolph looked and confirmed it: they were, in fact, them

Read the entire article here.

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Overlooked No More: Homer Plessy, Who Sat on a Train and Stood Up for Civil Rights

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2020-02-05 02:24Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Homer Plessy, Who Sat on a Train and Stood Up for Civil Rights

The New York Times
2020-01-31

Glenn Rifkin


A mural in New Orleans shows what Homer Plessy, right, might have looked like. On the left is P.B.S. Pinchback, the first black man to serve as a governor in the United States, in Louisiana. Pinchback is often mistaken for Plessy.
Mural by Ian Wilkinson; Photo by Jane Morse Rifkin

He boarded a whites-only train car in New Orleans with the hope of getting the attention of the Supreme Court. But it would be a long time before he got justice.

Since 1851, many remarkable black men and women did not receive obituaries in The New York Times. This month, with Overlooked, we’re adding their stories to our archives.

When Homer Plessy boarded the East Louisiana Railway’s No. 8 train in New Orleans on June 7, 1892, he knew his journey to Covington, La., would be brief.

He also knew it could have historic implications.

Plessy was a racially mixed shoemaker who had agreed to take part in an act of civil disobedience orchestrated by a New Orleans civil rights organization.

On that hot, sticky afternoon he walked into the Press Street Depot, purchased a first-class ticket and took a seat in the whites-only car…

Read the entire article here.

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Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2019-05-20 14:38Z by Steven

Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation

W. W. Norton
February 2019
624 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-393-23937-9

Steve Luxenberg

A myth-shattering narrative of how a nation embraced “separation” and its pernicious consequences.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first.

Separate spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours—race and equality. Wending its way through a half-century of American history, the narrative begins at the dawn of the railroad age, in the North, home to the nation’s first separate railroad car, then moves briskly through slavery and the Civil War to Reconstruction and its aftermath, as separation took root in nearly every aspect of American life.

Award-winning author Steve Luxenberg draws from letters, diaries, and archival collections to tell the story of Plessy v. Ferguson through the eyes of the people caught up in the case. Separate depicts indelible figures such as the resisters from the mixed-race community of French New Orleans, led by Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor; Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgée, a best-selling author and the country’s best-known white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed separation; and Justice John Harlan, the Southerner from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for justice.

Sweeping, swiftly paced, and richly detailed, Separate provides a fresh and urgently-needed exploration of our nation’s most devastating divide.

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Plessy v. Ferguson Re-Argument

Posted in Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2015-12-30 22:41Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson Re-Argument

C-SPAN: Created by Cable
Program ID: 71350-1
1996-04-20

Hosted by Harvard University

Distinguished jurists heard a re-argument of Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court case in which the Court found that Louisiana did not discriminate against Homer A. Plessy when it refused to let him sit in the white only section of a passenger train. In this decision, the Court established the legal doctrine of “separate, but equal,” which governed discrimination cases until the 1954 decision of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The participants had access only to the facts and case law available in 1896 for their arguments. Following the arguments, the “Court” deliberated in public and unanimously reversed its original 6-1 decision.

Watch the video (02:31:49) here.

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One thing we often forget about that case is that Homer Plessy’s argument was that he was white!

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-07-01 21:19Z by Steven

One thing we often forget about that case is that Homer Plessy’s argument was that he was white! He got bounced from the white section because the conductor said he was black. The question wasn’t that all train passengers should be able to sit together, rather Plessy said, “No, I’m a white person, actually.” The court admitted that it was very important to be able to determine who was white and who was not, and that having the ability to be white is a form of property, that it’s valuable, extremely valuable, in 1896.

Brian Jones, “The Social Construction of Race,” Jacobin, June 25, 2015. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/06/racecraft-racism-social-origins-reparations/.

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Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-07 19:00Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
2002

Richard Wormser, Series producer, Co-writer

Jim Crow was not a person, yet affected the lives of millions of people. Named after a popular 19th-century minstrel song that stereotyped African Americans, “Jim Crow” came to personify the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in the United States.

In June 7, 1892, 30-year-old Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the “White” car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy could easily pass for white but under Louisiana law, he was considered black despite his light complexion and therefore required to sit in the “Colored” car. He was a Creole of Color, a term used to refer to black persons in New Orleans who traced some of their ancestors to the French, Spanish, and Caribbean settlers of Louisiana before it became part of the United States. When Louisiana passed the Separate Car Act, legally segregating common carriers in 1892, a black civil rights organization decided to challenge the law in the courts. Plessy deliberately sat in the white section and identified himself as black. He was arrested and the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Plessy’s lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case and held the Louisiana segregation statute…

Read the entire article here.

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Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

Posted in Books, History, Law, Louisiana, Monographs, United States on 2013-08-22 02:12Z by Steven

Plessy v. Ferguson: Race and Inequality in Jim Crow America

University Press of Kansas
April 2012
224 pages
5-1⁄2 x 8-1⁄2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1846-0
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1847-7

Williamjames Hull Hoffer, Associate Professor of History
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

Six decades before Rosa Parks boarded her fateful bus, another traveler in the Deep South tried to strike a blow against racial discrimination—but ultimately fell short of that goal, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Now Williamjames Hull Hoffer vividly details the origins, litigation, opinions, and aftermath of this notorious case.

In response to the passage of the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890, which prescribed “equal but separate accommodations” on public transportation, a group called the Committee of Citizens decided to challenge its constitutionality. At a pre-selected time and place, Homer Plessy, on behalf of the committee, boarded a train car set aside for whites, announced his non-white racial identity, and was immediately arrested. The legal deliberations that followed eventually led to the Court’s 7-1 decision in Plessy, which upheld both the Louisiana statute and the state’s police powers. It also helped create a Jim Crow system that would last deep into the twentieth century, until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and other cases helped overturn it.

Hoffer’s readable study synthesizes past work on this landmark case, while also shedding new light on its proceedings and often-neglected historical contexts. From the streets of New Orleans’ Faubourg Tremé district to the justices’ chambers at the Supreme Court, he breathes new life into the opposing forces, dissecting their arguments to clarify one of the most important, controversial, and socially revealing cases in American law. He particularly focuses on Justice Henry Billings Brown’s ruling that the statute’s “equal, but separate” condition was a sufficient constitutional standard for equality, and on Justice John Marshall Harlan’s classic dissent, in which he stated, “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens.”

Hoffer’s compelling reconstruction illuminates the controversies and impact of Plessy v. Ferguson for a new generation of students and other interested readers. It also pays tribute to a group of little known heroes from the Deep South who failed to hold back the tide of racial segregation but nevertheless laid the groundwork for a less divided America.

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