Please join us for a special evening downtown at the Main New Orleans Public Library with award-winning author Steve Luxenberg presenting his important new book, SEPARATE: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation, in a conversation with archivist Gregory Osborn, and moderated by Susan Larson, host of The Reading Life. A booksigning will follow. We are especially proud to be able to hold this event at the New Orleans Public Library where the author did much research for the book.
Riveting and deeply researched, Separate tells the story surrounding one of the nation’s most devastating acts: drawing a sharp color line between black and white after the Civil War. The Plessy case was a knife that cleaved America, and Steve Luxenberg brilliantly reveals that divide with his rich narrative of admirable and flawed characters caught in the battle over racial justice. Every paragraph resonates in today’s headlines.” — Walter Isaacson
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.
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. Separate won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Gregory Osborn moved to New Orleans in 1991 to work with Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall and Ulysse Ricard on the ground-breaking NEH project “Africans in Colonial Louisiana” documenting and databasing Louisiana’s African and African descended free and enslaved populations. He has worked at Historic New Orleans Collection, Amistad Research Center, Louisiana Jazz and Heritage Festival, Xavier University, and Louisiana State Museum. Since July 1996, he has worked at New Orleans Public Library, primarily in the Louisiana and City Archives Division as a Library Associate.
is host of The Reading Life on WWNO public radio. She was book editor for The Times-Picayune from 1988-2000, served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library, and is founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents innitiated the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans.
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.