The Gilder Lehrman Institute and the Office of the Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards Present "Witnessing History: The Pardon of Homer Plessy" on March 16, 2022
NEW YORK, NY and BATON ROUGE, LA, March 7, 2022 — On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 6 p.m.–7 p.m. ET, join the Gilder Lehrman Institute and the Office of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards for a special panel discussion highlighting the first posthumous pardon in Louisiana state history of Mr. Homer A. Plessy, the history of the Plessy v. Ferguson case, and this current chapter in America's long history of race relations and the fight for civil rights.
The program will feature Governor Edwards, acclaimed historian and Professor Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University), Keith Plessy (descendant of Homer Plessy and President of the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation), and Phoebe Ferguson (descendant of Judge John Howard Ferguson and Executive Director of the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation). The program will be moderated by a member of the Institute’s staff.
There will be time during the program for questions submitted live over Zoom webinars.
Please find event details and registration for the general public here.
Please find registration for media here.
Convicted in 1892 by a New Orleans court of violating an 1890 segregation law when he refused to sit in a train car designated for Black people only, Homer Plessy filed a petition against the presiding judge, Hon. John H. Ferguson, claiming that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The US Supreme Court rejected his argument, which paved the way for restrictive Jim Crow legislation and separate public accommodations based on race, which lasted until 1954 and the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
On January 5, 2022, Gov. John Bel Edwards took the historic action of signing Louisiana’s first posthumous pardon of Mr. Homer A. Plessy, joined by descendants of Homer A. Plessy, Justice John Harlan, and Judge John Ferguson, as well as Southern University Professor of Law Angela Bell, Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, civil rights leaders, and a number of state and local elected officials.
“The first six decades of the 20th century should have been filled with infinitely more promise and progress in race relations, and they would have been had slavery and segregation given way to equality and freedom as a plain reading of the 13th and 14th Amendments required,” said Gov. Edwards. “Instead, the 1896 Plessy decision ordained segregation for the explicit purpose of declaring and perpetuating white supremacy, as immoral and factually erroneous as that was—and is. The fictitious notion of ‘separate but equal’ remained with us until the United States Supreme Court revisited the issue in 1954 in the context of public education and implicitly overruled Plessy. Mr. Plessy’s conviction should never have happened. But, there is no expiration on justice. No matter is ever settled until it is settled right. We still have a long way to go when it comes to equality and justice, but this pardon is certainly a step in the right direction.”
Gilder Lehrman Institute President and CEO James G. Basker states, “The Institute is pleased to sponsor this program not only because it shows that history lives on into the present, but that however long delayed, justice and progress can be achieved.”
In conjunction with our March 16 panel, the Gilder Lehrman Institute has compiled a list of resources on the Plessy v. Ferguson case, the history of discrimination, and the fight for civil rights in the United States. This resource list can be found here.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education. The Institute is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. Its mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, the Council of Independent Colleges, and the National Daughters of the American Revolution. For further information, visit gilderlehrman.org or call (646) 366-9666.
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