After 125 years, Homer Plessy of Plessy v. Ferguson will receive a pardon from the state of Louisiana, the Washington Post reports.
On Friday, the Louisiana Board of Pardons unanimously approved a pardon, sending it to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature and final approval.
According to Edwards’s office, the governor, who was traveling “looks forward to receiving and reviewing the recommendation of the Board upon his return.”
Keith Plessy, a descendant of Homer Plessy, said when he heard the news, he felt like his feet “weren’t touching the ground.” He, along with his friend Phoebe Ferguson, a descendant of the judge in the case, was driving on the cross-country trip.
“Not only is this 125 years of long-time-coming but the way things have happened at such a rapid pace just lets you know that [Plessy and the civil rights group he was working with] were right,” Plessy said.
Plessy thanked Jason Williams, the new District Attorney of New Orleans, who launched the pardon inquiry.
Plessy vs. Ferguson was a landmark 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that stated that racial segregation could be upheld by the constitution under the “separate but equal” doctrine.
The case evolved from an 1892 incident in which Homer Plessy refused to sit in a car designated for Black passengers on a train as laws of segregation were being passed throughout the American South. The Supreme Court rejected Plessy’s argument that his constitutional rights were violated by ruling that a law that “implies merely a legal distinction” between Black and white citizens was not unconstitutional. Because of the court’s ruling, a new era of restrictive Jim Crow laws were enacted and “separate but equal” became a pervasive reality for public accommodations for Black people.
In 1925, Plessy passed away with the conviction still on his record and the “separate but equal” doctrine would be the law of the land until the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
Both Plessy and Ferguson are hopeful that Edwards will approve the pardon, giving them “something for him to hang his hat on.”
Since meeting each other in 2004, Plessy and Ferguson formed the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation and have worked to place five historical markers honoring Homer Plessy across New Orleans.