Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation

Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation

by Steve Luxenberg


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


A New York Times Editors' Choice

A myth-shattering narrative of how a nation embraced "separation" and its pernicious consequences.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first.

Separate spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours—race and equality. Wending its way through a half-century of American history, the narrative begins at the dawn of the railroad age, in the North, home to the nation’s first separate railroad car, then moves briskly through slavery and the Civil War to Reconstruction and its aftermath, as separation took root in nearly every aspect of American life.

Award-winning author Steve Luxenberg draws from letters, diaries, and archival collections to tell the story of Plessy v. Ferguson through the eyes of the people caught up in the case. Separate depicts indelible figures such as the resisters from the mixed-race community of French New Orleans, led by Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor; Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgée, a best-selling author and the country’s best-known white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed separation; and Justice John Harlan, the Southerner from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for justice.

Sweeping, swiftly paced, and richly detailed, Separate provides a fresh and urgently-needed exploration of our nation’s most devastating divide.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393239379
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 02/12/2019
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 563,309
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Steve Luxenberg is the author of Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation and the critically acclaimed Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret. During his thirty years as a Washington Post senior editor, he has overseen reporting that has earned numerous national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Prologue April 1896 xiii

Cast Of Characters xxi

Part I Ambition

Chapter 1 Taking Their Seats • Massachusetts, 1838-1843 3

Chapter 2 Harlan of Kentucky • 1853-1857 25

Chapter 3 Brown of New England • 2856-1857 47

Chapter 4 Tourgee of Ohio • 1858-1860 69

Chapter 5 The Free People of Color • New Orleans, 1860 91

Part II War

Chapter 6 "The Harlan Name" • Kentucky, 1858-1862 107

Chapter 7 "A War of Which No Man Can See the End" • Brown in Detroit, 1860-1864 131

Chapter 8 "For This I Am Willing to Die" • Tourgee on the March, 1861-1863 153

Chapter 9 "Claim Your Rights" • New Orleans and Washington, 1863-1864 175

Part III Ascent

Chapter 10 Choosing Sides • Harlan in Kentucky, 1865-1871 193

Chapter 11 "A Taste for Judicial Life" • Brown in Detroit, 1866-1872 215

Chapter 12 Tourgee Goes South • North Carolina, 1865-1870 237

Chapter 13 Equal but Separate • New Orleans and the North, 1867-1871 261

Part IV Precipice

Chapter 14 "Is Not Harlan the Man?" • Kentucky and Washington, 1875-1878 281

Chapter 15 "Uncongenial Strifes" • Brown and Tourgee, 1875-1879 305

Chapter 16 Fool's Errand • North and South, 1880-1883 329

Chapter 17 The Color Line Sharpens • 1883-1888 351

Chapter 18 "The Negro Question" • Mayville, Washington, and New Orleans, 1889-1890 373

Part V Resistance

Chapter 19 "In Behalf of 7,999,999 of My Race" • New Orleans, Mayville, Detroit, and Washington, 1890-1891 397

Chapter 20 Arrest • Mayville and New Orleans, 1892-1893 419

Chapter 21 "You Are Fighting a Great Battle" • Washington, Mayville, and New Orleans, 1893-1895 443

Chapter 22 "In the Nature of Things" • March, April, May 1896 465

Epilogue 489

Acknowledgments 507

Notes 513

Sources 571

Index 581

Customer Reviews