Students from the New Orleans Center for Creative arts will re-create the arrest and conviction of Homer Plessy during a dramatic presentation, “SE-PA-RATE,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 22, in Bishop Polk Hall at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1329 Jackson Ave., New Orleans.
Homer Plessy was a New Orleanian who committed an act of civil disobedience in June 1892 by attempting to ride to Covington in the same train car with white passengers. His action was the result of a carefully choreographed campaign planned by the Comite des Citoyens, a group of Republican free men of color who had watched their rights disappear under the increasingly strict Jim Crow laws of the post-Reconstruction period. Plessy had been chosen for the test because he was well-established in the community and could pass for white.
His case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States but failed. “Separate but equal” was enshrined as the law of the land until it was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. But the seeds of peaceful resistance and reform had been planted by Plessy and his group.
The presentation sets up an imaginary dialogue between the actors and the historical players about how and why they did what they did and then examines how we separate ourselves from on another today.
The historical information for the play is drawn from “We as Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson” by Keith Weldon Medley, who will be on hand to sign that book and his latest, “Black Life in Old New Orleans.”