Both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs escaped slavery in the South, but their first experience of freedom in the North came on the railroad—and with it the sting of racial segregation. Segregation in the South developed later in the 1880s through laws requiring separate railroad cars for black and white.
March 19, 1841 | Newspaper
Northern railways continued to discriminate against African American passengers and are rebuked in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
April 2, 1841 | Newspaper
The maltreatment of African Americans by New England rail companies acting as "epidermis-aristocrats" draws an abolitionist's wrath as a Southerner weighs in on the merits of Southern rail travel.
November 6, 1841 | Newspaper
The plight of African Americans and their abolitionist supporters on New England railroads is addressed in depth in this passionate editorial.
1855 | Book
In this excerpt from My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass recounts the segregation of Northern railcars and the attitudes of Northern passengers.
1861 | Book
In these excerpts from her memoir, Harriet Jacobs writes of the segregation and prejudice she faced in the North almost immediately after escaping from slavery.
September 12, 1863
In this letter from September 12, 1863, Sally A. Kendrick writes to her friend Jennie Reed, wife of Samuel Reed, discussing the recent death of her brother and the war. She speculates that the war will not end until slavery is abolished, but notes that she did not think so until after the fall of Fort Sumter. She states that she is no abolitionist, does not believe in "the equality of the races," and does not "want them here among us," but does "want to see them free and colonized some where." She shares several ideas regarding what should be done with the slaves after they are freed.
March 17, 1864 | Book
In these excerpts from a Senate debate over regulations for a District of Columbia street railroad, many typical arguments for and against public segregation are aired in language that also reveals attitudes towards race and equality as the Civil War continued.
1873 | Legal decision
In 1868, Catherine Brown, an African American woman, was ejected from the "ladies car" on the Washington, Alexandria, and Georgetown Railroad Company when traveling from Alexandria, Virginia, to the District of Columbia. Brown sued the rail company and the case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court - the first case addressing race and public transportation to appear before the Court. Although the legal status of the railroad under Congressional rulings that had applied to earlier iterations of the company became a basis for appeal, the rights of African Americans became the most notable outcome of the Supreme Court's decision for Brown in 1873.
May 20, 1875 | Newspaper
The United States District Court at Harrisionburg, Virginia, hands down an indictment against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for the ejection of Annie Smith.
April 21, 1877 | Newspaper
The ejection of a party of Alabama African American men and women from a first class car on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad is recounted in this letter from William Jenkins of Tuskeegee, Alabama.
March 26, 1883 | Newspaper
The plight of middle- and upper-class African Americans on Georgia railways and in public accommodations is briefly addressed in this report from Savannah, Georgia.
March 31, 1883
The expulsion of an African American preacher from a Georgia rail car draws the ire of Philadelphia citizens.
September 29, 1883 | Newspaper
A brief editorial statement about the conditions on Texas railroads and the lack of equal accomodations for African Americans and the need for a continued struggle against "American intolerance."
September 10, 1886 | Newspaper
The plight of three African American passengers on a Georgia railcar is recounted in this reprint from the Macon Telegraph.
December 24, 1887 | Newspaper
The case of Rev. William Heard versus the Georgia Railroad Company is heard before the Interstate Commerce Commission.
December 18, 1888 | Newspaper
The ejection of Reverend H. F. Lee from a Georgia railcar is reported.
January 5, 1889 | Newspaper
A correspondent of the New York Age reports on an Atlanta Evening Journal article recounting the expulsion of Reverend T. H. Lee from a Georgia Railroad Company coach.
1890 | Law
The Louisiana Railway Accommodations Act mandates "equal but separate" rail travel in the state.
September 3, 1891 | Newspaper
A reponse from the Southern Pacific following an Interstate Commerce Commission ruling that African Americans making trips crossing state lines could not be ejected from first-class cars.
April 4, 1892 | Journal
As African American civil rights are threatened with increasing segregation, a writer for a noted African American publication analyzes the situation.
1893 | Book
Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn, Ferdinand L. Barnett, and Frederick Loudin published The Reason Why in response to the exclusion of Afircan Americans and their contributions to American life from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The excerpt included here is part of Wells' contribution and includes the Tennessee separate coach law.
April 5, 1893 | Newspaper
The decision for Maime Caldwell in her case against the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad Company for discrimination is briefly recounted, noting the final award of $800.
October 30, 1893 | Newspaper
The Anti-Separate Coach Committee of Kentucky begins to lobby against the Jim Crow laws recently passed by the state legislature.
May 18, 1896 | Legal decision
These excerpts from the Supreme Court's Plessy v Ferguson decision outline primary points of the seven-man decision that asserted the constitutionality of "separate but equal" facilities.
May 18, 1896 | Legal decision
These excerpts from Justice John Harlan's dissent from the Supreme Court's Plessy v Ferguson decision include scathing counter-arguments to the majority decision that asserted the legality of "separate but equal" facilities.
December 18, 1898 | Newspaper
North Carolina plans for Jim Crow cars draw attention.
1900 | Law
Virginia's separate coach law, approved in January of 1900 and enacted July 1900.
August 4, 1900 | Newspaper
The restrictions of Jim Crow laws are tested by Virginia's Pamunkey Indians.
1901 | Pamphlet
Meant as a primer for African American voters, this short volume includes a brief interview with William Jennings Bryan, followed by a comment on Jim Crow cars.
1901 | Book
In this excerpt from Charles Chesnutt's novel, the African American doctor protagonist faces the reality of segregation on Southern railroads.