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Homer Plessy, namesake of 'separate but equal' ruling, recommended for a pardon

The state Board of Pardons moved forward Friday with a measure to posthumously pardon civil rights activist Homer Plessy for his 1892 violation of a segregationist law, the Associated Press reported. The measure awaits Gov. John Bel Edwards’ approval to take effect.

Plessy, a Creole man who identified as one-eighth Black, attempted to overturn Louisiana’s racial segregation laws by refusing to leave a whites-only railroad car on June 7, 1892. After about 20 minutes, Plessy was jailed, tried and convicted of violating Louisiana’s Separate Car Act of 1890, which dictated that “equal, but separate” railcar accommodations must be made for Black and white people.

Plessy appealed his case to the Supreme Court and in 1896, Plessy lost and the court upheld the law’s “separate, but equal” clause by a seven-to-one margin in the case "Plessy v. Ferguson." The decision reaffirmed segregationist “Jim Crow” laws nationwide and brought harsher restrictions on Black Louisianans.

The “separate, but equal” decision was overturned in a 1954 Supreme Court case, “Brown v. Board of Education.” Racial discrimination would later be outlawed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After his conviction, Plessy paid a $25 fine to avoid jail time and returned home to his family. He sold insurance and remained active in the New Orleans community until his death in 1925 at age 62.
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