The Comite des Citoyens closed shop; Plessy paid a $25 fine in lieu of jail time.
Phoebe Ferguson and Keith Plessy were both born in New Orleans generations later, in the year Brown was decided.
The daughter of a conservative Tulane-grad father and a “radical feminist” Sarah Lawrence mother, Ferguson said she had no idea she was connected to the case.
“If my mother had known, she certainly would have talked about it,” said Ferguson, who moved north and got the news years later when a man who had bought John Ferguson’s house tracked her down.
She returned to New Orleans from New York “after the storm” — Hurricane Katrina — first with a 17-foot truckload of supplies and then later for good. She completed a film about the city’s oldest African American social club called “Member of the Club” and lately has become involved in the city’s schools.
“I’m a completely different person than I was in New York,” she said.
Plessy, whose great-grandfather was Homer Plessy’s first cousin, knew of his connection because of his fairly rare French name. He remembers grade school teachers calling him to the front of the class during a discussion of the case.
And his name has attracted attention from visiting civil rights luminaries who have passed through the downtown New Orleans hotel where he has made a career. He spoke with Muhammad Ali and was once called upstairs to meet Rosa Parks.
Plessy recalls rushing in to find Parks sitting in a chair, and he knelt before her.
“She said, ‘Get up, boy. Your name is Plessy. You got work to do,’ ” he said.
He said he found that work after meeting Medley, and because of the revival of interest around the centennial of the Plessy decision. The city and state first recognized “Homer A. Plessy Day” in 2005.
“I was not a great leader or a great scholar or any of those things,” Keith Plessy said. “I’ve been a 30-year employee of Marriott as a bellman and happy with that job.
“But I have an obligation and a privilege to keep my ancestor’s history alive. What my ancestors dreamt about, I’m able to live.”