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Descendants of Plessy and Ferguson meet as pardon nears

Homer Plessy was found guilty in the late 1800s for refusing to give up his seat in a 'whites only' part of a train car.

The pardon of the late civil rights activists, Homer Plessy, is awaiting the signature of Governor John Bel Edwards.

On November 12, The Louisiana Board of Pardons voted unanimously to pardon Plessy of his conviction in the late 1800's of sitting in a "whites only" train car. Some of the people who made that pardon happen after 125 years finally got to meet each other.

It was a first time meeting 15 years in the making. And a historic one at that. LSU Health Vice Chancellor Edwin Murray finally getting to talk with the great, great descendants of two people who made civil rights history.

“To meet people who actually have lineage to this case, because this is one of these landmark cases in the Supreme Court.  It's a pretty big deal to meet them,” said Murray.

Keith Plessy is the descendant of  Homer Plessy, the man who refused to give up his seat in a whites only train car in the late 1800s. Phoebe Ferguson is the descendant of Judge John Howard Ferguson. He’s the one who found Homer Plessy guilty.  And Ed Murray was the state senator in 2006, who wrote The Avery Alexander Act. That allowed civil rights pioneers to be pardoned for convictions for violating racially discriminatory laws. The act passed unanimously.

“So on this list of co-authors, I had Republicans, Democrats, Blacks, Whites, you name it, from all across the state, so it was received pretty well,” said Murray.  

Keith and Phoebe run The Plessy and Ferguson Foundation to educate about the historic U.S. Supreme Court case.

“To have Avery Alexander's name attached to Homer Plessy, it just warms my heart,” said Keith Plessy, President and cofounder of The Plessy and Ferguson Foundation and Homer’s first cousin three times removed.

“It's fantastic. I mean it really is wonderful. We've been wanting to meet Senator Murray and also just have so many questions,” said Phoebe Ferguson, Executive Director and Co-founder of The Plessy and Ferguson Foundation

And the great, great granddaughter of Judge John Howard Ferguson.

It was former Senator Murray's law that allowed Keith, and Phoebe, and the DA's office, to pursue getting a pardon for Homer Plessy on November 12, which was 125 years after the conviction.

 “I know that it's going to change how this case is taught from now on,” said Ferguson.   

“This is one of the law cases every student has to study,” said Murray.  

The Plessy pardon made news across the world.

“And it's been all happening so fast that it's sometimes hard to keep up with, but it's all good things happening at one time,” said Plessy.

The governor is planning a big ceremony for the signing of the pardon. That could happen in the next couple of weeks or the end of the first week in January.

Tuesday morning the French ambassador to the U.S. will honor Homer Plessy by planting a tree near the site of his arrest.

RELATED: 61 years after desegregating McDonogh 19 Elementary, three civil rights pioneers revisit school

RELATED: 'The right thing to do,' Homer Plessy pardoned 125 years after arrest in 1892

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