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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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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What is Racial Passing?

Posted in Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2019-03-03 03:59Z by Steven

What is Racial Passing?

Digital Studios: Origin of Everything
PBS Digital Studios
Public Broadcasting Service
Season 2, Episode 13 (First Aired: 2019-02-27)

Danielle Bainbridge, Host, Writer, and Postdoctoral Fellow
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What motivates someone to disguise their race, gender, religion, etc.? Today Danielle explores the complicated history of passing in the United States.

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A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2016-05-09 01:03Z by Steven

A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight against White Supremacy

University of North Carolina Press
2016-05-02
464 pages
9 halftones, notes, bibl., index
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4696-2795-3

Carolyn L. Karcher

During one of the darkest periods of U.S. history, when white supremacy was entrenching itself throughout the nation, the white writer-jurist-activist Albion W. Tourgée (1838-1905) forged an extraordinary alliance with African Americans. Acclaimed by blacks as “one of the best friends of the Afro-American people this country has ever produced” and reviled by white Southerners as a race traitor, Tourgée offers an ideal lens through which to reexamine the often caricatured relations between progressive whites and African Americans. He collaborated closely with African Americans in founding an interracial civil rights organization eighteen years before the inception of the NAACP, in campaigning against lynching alongside Ida B. Wells and Cleveland Gazette editor Harry C. Smith, and in challenging the ideology of segregation as lead counsel for people of color in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Here, Carolyn L. Karcher provides the first in-depth account of this collaboration. Drawing on Tourgée’s vast correspondence with African American intellectuals, activists, and ordinary folk, on African American newspapers and on his newspaper column, “A Bystander’s Notes,” in which he quoted and replied to letters from his correspondents, the book also captures the lively dialogue about race that Tourgée and his contemporaries carried on.

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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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SOCI 395-005: Plessy to Martin: Race and Politics

Posted in Course Offerings, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-25 17:13Z by Steven

SOCI 395-005: Plessy to Martin: Race and Politics

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia
Fall 2013

Rutledge M. Dennis, Professor of Sociology

This course examines the issues, individuals, and groups central to the intersectionality of race, culture, and politics in American life. We will begin with the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case which solidified and legitimized the nation’s “separate and equal” racial policy until Brown v. Board of Education. A critique of this case allows us to understand the intricate relations between the nation’s racial theories and policies and its public politics and culture. These racial, political, and cultural issues will provide the background from which we analyze the individuals and groups whose actions and positions presented challenges and counter-challenges to America’s image of itself as a free and democratic society. As a consequence, we will examine how racial and cultural politics were driving forces in the public debates and controversies surrounding such cases as the Scottsboro Boys in Alabama, Robert Williams in North Carolina, Emmett Till in Mississippi, Medgar Evers in Mississippi, Martin Luther King in Georgia, Angela Davis in California, O. J. Simpson in California, Rodney King in California, and currently, Trayvon Martin in Florida. The central questions in the cases presented above focus on why, and in what ways, did racial feelings, fears, and animosities surface as they did, how were intragroup and intergroup relations affected by such attitudes and behavior, and what were the short and long-term societal consequences of these attitudes and behavior.

For more information, click here.

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