Homer Plessy was a black man who could pass for white, but he believed in equal rights for all people no matter what their color.
The white man wanted blacks to be separated from whites because he didn't want a black man to take his position. One way to keep blacks separated was passing a law to say that blacks and whites could not ride the same train car. That's what the Louisiana legislature did in 1890. That law was so new that when it was passed, black males who were married to white females couldn't even sit on the same car as their partners. How could you be separated from someone you love?
As you can see, 1892 was a mixed up time. Someone had to do something fast. So this is where the Citizens' Committee came in. This group of people mapped out a plan to challenge the Separate Car Act. They recruited Homer Plessy to get arrested, because they knew he could pass for white and that he didn't have any children to take care of. This was important, because at this time in New Orleans, he could have been killed for disobeying the white man's orders. Mobs were often pulling men out of jail to deliver their own justice.
On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy was at the railroad station conducting himself like a normal person. He took his seat in the white section of the train. The train pulled out of the station. It was moving slowly and then came to a complete stop at the intersection of Royal and Cotton Press Streets. Plessy sat frozen in his seat. A white officer got on the train and asked Plessy if he was a negro. He said he was. So the officer asked him to move to the black section. But Plessy followed the plan and refused to move.
In 1896, Plessy's arrest finally came to a conclusion. Homer Plessy was not happy with this Supreme Court decision, because black and whites were separated but equal. That means blacks could put up black only signs and whites could put up whites only signs.
From that moment on, Plessy, the Citizens' Committee, and every true-hearted New Orleans resident knew it was going to be a long fight for justice and for laws that did not keep one group of people lower than the other.
© 2005 Students at the Center.