Three Hundred Sixty- Five Days of Black
Homer Adolph Plessy
Homer A. Plessy was a Civil Rights activist, shoemaker, and Plaintiff for the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson. He was born on March 17, 1862, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was a light-skinned Creole of Color. He came from a family of mixed racial heritage, octoroon (generally of African and European descent or of Aboriginal and European ancestry). His family could pass for white, but were considered “free people of color.” In order to challenge the 1890 Louisiana statute requiring separate accommodations for whites and blacks and the hope to strike down segregation laws, on June 7, 1892, Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. The Citizens’ Committee of New Orleans (Comité des Citoyens, a Black organization in New Orleans, recruited him to deliberately violate Louisiana’s 1890 separate-car law.
Whites Only” Rail- Car
He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers (“whites only” rail- car). When Homer was ordered to leave, he disobeyed. When the police arrived they threw him off the train and arrested him. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890. Plessy was jailed overnight and released on a $500 bond. Homer Plessy Protested the violation of his 13th and 14th amendment rights, during his day in court. The court case became known as Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy claimed in court that the Separate Car law violated the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but Louisiana Judge John Howard Ferguson found him guilty anyhow, but the case went on to the U.S. Supreme Court in May of 1896.
Homer A. Plessy Day
The Supreme Court upheld the legality of Judge Ferguson’s ruling by an 8-1 majority. Their findings also confirmed the doctrine of “separate but equal” — the notion that segregation was legal as long as both blacks and whites had equal facilities. The case helped formalize legal segregation in the United States until it was finally outlawed by the Supreme Court. Although Homer lost the case his decision had an impact on others, including the case of Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement, his actions helped inspire the formation of the NAACP- (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He died March 1, 1925, but his legacy lives on. “Homer A. Plessy Day” was established in New Orleans and a park was also named in his honor. His act of civil disobedience helped inspire future generations of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps more remarkably, 50 years after what transpired, relatives of Plessy and Ferguson united to create a foundation that provides civil rights education, preservation, and outreach.
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