Plessy v. Ferguson is synonymous with Jim Crow laws and the unjust legal doctrine of “separate but equal.” But few Americans know more than the name of the case and have just a superficial understanding of its origins and outcome. Joins us as award-winning author Steve Luxenberg discusses one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the 19th century and his award-winning new book Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation.
This sweeping, swiftly paced, and richly detailed book is essential reading for any American looking to understand racism, the long struggle for civil rights, and the deep, often surprising history of our nation’s most devastating divide. On June 7, 1892 Homer Plessy, a light-skinned Creole bought a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railroad, boarding the whites-only first-class car. The train conductor promptly arrested him. The resulting case Plessy v. Ferguson (Ferguson was the state judge that ruled against Plessy and upheld the state’s law) was argued before the Supreme Court in 1896. Drawing from letters, diaries, and archival collections, and weaving biography, history, and legal drama together on a grand scale, Luxenberg recreates the personalities and debates that informed the Court’s decision and shaped race relations for generations.
The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation was named a New York Times Editor's Choice, and was longlisted for the 2019 Cundill History Prize. As a work in progress, it won the 2016 J. Anthony Lukas Award for excellence in nonfiction. Steve Luxenberg is an associate editor at The Washington Post and an award-winning author. During his forty years as an editor and reporter, Steve has overseen reporting that has earned many national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes. His first book, the critically-acclaimed Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, was a 2010 Michigan Notable Book and the 2013-14 Great Michigan Read. Steve lives in Baltimore.