New Orleans, LA

Homer Plessy and other Black New Orleans Activists who fought segregation, Part 2

Ashley Lideau

NEW ORLEANS, LA — Homer Plessy's struggle to eradicate segregation in New Orleans began when Plessy himself just entered the Black movement. Before Plessy stepped into the civil rights movement, other activists also fought desegregation in every public place in New Orleans.

The activists' terrible news came when the new constitution of Louisiana approved in 1879 eliminated public school integration. This decision also meant schools need to teach the students in English and not in French.

The decision also made Creole-led organizations started protesting in the 1880s. Rodolphe L. Desdunes and Louis A. Martinet led the civil rights movement in New Orleans through The Crusader, a black-owned newspaper printed in French and English.

These men made vital decisions, such as revitalizing pre–Civil War institutions and creating new pro-minority institutions. In 1886, for example, a group of Black New Orleanians established the Justice, Protective, Educational, and Social Club, on which Plessy was a vice president.

The Crusaders spoke against violence and discriminatory treatment towards Black people in New Orleans. It also denounced efforts to make a clear distinction between the races, arguing that Louisiana's mixed population made those unfeasible.

Besides those main goals, The Crusader also closely monitored the legislature for new laws targeted against Black civil rights, such as the Separate Car Act in 1890, which outlawed the streetcar integration efforts of 1867. The Crusader's contributors recognized the injustice of this Act and the arbitrary enforcement of the law based solely on race.

"Every honorable person knows that the law was passed to discriminate against the colored people so as to degrade them," wrote Desdunes about the Act.

The Crusader then protested the Act, calling for boycotts of the railroad companies and formulating a test case to challenge the law in court. The Crusader was helped by the Louisiana branch of the American Citizens' Equal Rights Association (ACERA) during their process as they traveled to Baton Rouge to protest the Law's Passage, which occurred on July 10 and initiated Comité des Citoyens( Citizens' Committee).

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