Press Street Railroad Yards
—Site of the Arrest of Homer Adolph Plessy —
On June 7, 1892, Homer Aldolph Plessy was removed from the East Louisiana Railroad train and arrested by Detective C.C. Cain at the corner of Royal and Press St. He was charged with violating the 1890 Louisiana Separate Car Act that separated railroad passengers by race.
Plessy's act of civil disobedience was a test case organized by the Comite' des Citoyens (Citizen's Committee) whose aim was to overturn segregation laws that were being enacted across the South. The philosophy and strategies of the Comite' des Citoyens foreshadowed Civil Rights movements of the 20th century. Although the Supreme Court ruled against Plessy on May 18, 1896, his case marked the first post-Reconstruction use of the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" provision in a legal challenge to segregation. In their final statement after the Supreme Court verdict, the Comite' des Citoyens proclaimed, "We as freemen still believe we were right and our cause is sacred...In defending the cause of liberty, we met with defeat but not with ignominy."
Their position was vindicated when the Supreme Court upheld similar 14th Amendment arguments in the 1954 case of Brown v Board of Education.
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Homer Plessy was born Homere
Patris Plessy on March 17, 1863 in New Orleans. His parents were carpenter (Joseph) Adolphe Plessy and seamstress Rosa Debergue, both classified as people of color. Homer Plessy died on March 1, 1925. He is entombed in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
John Howard Ferguson was born in 1838 in Martha's Vineyard, MA. He was appointed judge in Section A of the New Orleans Parish Criminal Court 1892 and ruled against Plessy in November of the same year. He is buried in Lafayette Cemetery.
Members of the Citizens' Committee (1891-1896)
Arthur Esteves, President; C.C. Antoine, Vice-President; Firmin Christophe, Secretary; G.G Johnston, Asst. Secretary; Paul Bonseigneur, Treasurer; Laurent Auguste; Rudolph Baquie; Rodolphe L. Desdunes; A.J. Giuranovich; Alcee Labat; E.A. Williams, Pierre Chevalier; Louis A. Martinet; Numa E. Mansion; L.J. Joubert; A.B. Kennedy; Myrthil J. Piron; Eugene Luscy; Julius Hall; Frank Hall; Noel Bacchus; George Geddes; A.E.P. Albert.