Homer Plessy had only one black great grandparent

In 1895, when Justice Henry Billings Brown ruled that Louisiana’s law segregating train cars was constitutional, he didn’t want to get into the messy business of determining whether or not passenger Homer Plessy was actually black. Though only possessing “one eighth African blood,” with “the mixture of colored blood” not “discernible in him,” whether Plessy was black was a matter for the state to decide.

“[T]here is a difference of opinion in the different States, some holding that any visible admixture of black blood stamps the person as belonging to the colored race,” wrote Brown, “others that it depends upon the preponderance of blood; and still others that the predominance of white blood must only be in the proportion of three-fourths.” [link]


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