A New York Times Editors' Choice
Winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Award
Longlisted for the Cundill History Prize
“Absorbing.… Segregation is not one story but many. Luxenberg has written his with energy, elegance and a heart aching for a world without it.” —James Goodman, The New York Times Book Review
Separate is a myth-shattering narrative of one of the most consequential Supreme Court cases of the nineteenth century, Plessy v. Ferguson. The 1896 ruling embraced racial segregation, and its reverberations are still felt today. Drawing on letters, diaries, and archival collections, Steve Luxenberg reveals the origins of racial separation and its pernicious grip on American life. He tells the story through the lives of the people caught up in the case: Louis Martinet, who led the resisters from the mixed-race community of French New Orleans; 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 sanctioned separation; 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 is an urgently needed exploration of our nation’s most devastating divide.