Sunday, October 6 at 4:00 pm

Speaker Series: Steve Luxenberg, Author of Separate

The Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives is pleased to welcome Steve Luxenberg, author of Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation to its Speaker Series at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

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.

Two of the principal figures in the Plessy case — the lead lawyer and the justice who wrote the decision now regarded among the worst in Supreme Court history — had strong family ties to Lee and Stockbridge.  Luxenberg’s talk also will explore Massachusetts’s important role in racial separation on public transportation, long before the Civil War.

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

Photo by Josh Luxenberg

About the author: Steve Luxenberg is an associate editor at The Washington Post and an award-winning author.  During his 40 years as a newspaper editor and reporter, Steve has overseen reporting that has earned many national honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

His new nonfiction book, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice, as well as a Best Book of the Month by Amazon and Goodreads. It has been featured in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The Economist.  His first book was the critically-acclaimed Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, honored as a Michigan Notable Book and selected as the 2013-2014 Great Michigan Read.

Steve’s journalistic career began at The Baltimore Sun, where he worked for 11 years.  He joined The Post in 1985 as deputy editor of the investigative/special projects staff, headed by assistant managing editor Bob Woodward.  In 1991, Steve succeeded Woodward as head of the investigative staff. From 1996 to 2006, Steve was the editor of The Post’s Sunday Outlook section, which publishes original reporting and provocative commentary on a broad spectrum of political, historical and cultural issues.

Steve is a graduate of Harvard College.  He grew up in Detroit, where Annie’s Ghosts primarily takes place.  He and his wife, Mary Jo Kirschman, a former school librarian, live in Baltimore.  They have two grown children, Josh and Jill.

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