Daily Archives: February 7, 2009
Plessy vs. Ferguson
Some sixty-three years before Rosa Parks, on June 7, 1892, a 30-year-old colored shoemaker named Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the “White” car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Plessy was only one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, but under Louisiana law, he was considered black and therefore required to sit in the “Colored” car.
One drop of “colored” blood made you “colored.”
Plessy went to court and argued, in Homer Adolph Plessy v. The State of Louisiana, that the Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. He was found guilty of refusing to leave the “white” car.
Homer Plessy appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld Ferguson’s decision. In 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States heard Plessy’s case and found him guilty once again.
The lone dissenter, Justice John Harlan, showed incredible foresight when he wrote “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law…In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case…The present decision, it may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief that it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficent purposes which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent amendments of the Constitution.”
Over time, the words of Justice Harlan rang true. The Plessy decision set the precedent that “separate” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as they were “equal.” The “separate but equal” doctrine was quickly extended to cover many areas of public life, such as restaurants, theaters, restrooms, and public schools. Not until 1954, in the equally important Brown v. Board of Education decision, would the “separate but equal” doctrine be struck down.
After the second trial, Myrlie Evers moved with her children to California, where she earned a degree from Pomona College and was later named to the Los Angeles Commission of Public Works. Convinced that her husband’s killer had not been brought to justice, she continued to search for new evidence in the case.
Two Hollywood actresses are new mothers, yet they have completely different views on their post-pregnancy bodies:
Kate Winslet speaking with Cynthia McFadden on Nightline:
“I’ve decided I am going to start loving my backside. I don’t know anyone who does that, you know? And for my daughter I want to be able to say to her, I love this, I love this, look, my belly does this because I had you guys and this is what happens to breasts when you nurse two children.”
“I wore a girdle. Eight weeks after my girlfriend had her baby, you could see her six-pack. She told me to put an elastic band around my waist—any kind of band or girdle works. She was like, ‘I slept in it.’ I didn’t recover as fast as she did. I [still] don’t have a six-pack.”
Those lawmakers up there in Vermont have a bill they would like to see enacted, that would allow gay marriage in the state where civil-union was introduced.
The bill is sponsored by Representatives Mark Larson and David Zuckerman of Burlington, and has the backing of 59 legislators. The Senate is also expected to introduce a bill allowing gay marriage.
“Zuckerman, a progressive, says the economy is the biggest issue in the Statehouse but says there are other committees that can handle other issues. He says the time has come for Vermont, which passed the civil unions nine years ago, to make gay marriage law.”