As an archive fiend, I’m regularly dipping into the Atlantic archives. Some days it is for the delight of finding good pieces of writing, and other times just for historic reference points. I recently did a search for Albion Tourgée, a Radical Republican congressman who also served as Homer Plessy’s attorney in the Plessy v. Ferguson case and wrote a series of novels.

Tourgée’s loss in Plessy is resonant these days for a couple of reasons. One is the disingenuous Republican analogy between that case and Roe v. Wade. That analogy likens the denial of rights to African Americans to the denial of rights to a fetus (as though pregnant people are mere incubators without rights of their own). The far more accurate analogy is between Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the decision overruling Roe, and Plessy. In the Plessy era, violent backlash took place against Reconstruction’s steps toward a multiracial democracy, and state-level apparatuses were set up to institutionalize Jim Crow. Likewise, we are witnessing yet another period in which there is systematic dismantling of hard-fought rights for people who have been historically marginalized.

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