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  • | Legal decision

    Catharine Brown, Plaintiff's Prayers

    A brief description of the judgement Catherine Brown hoped for as the jury decided her case.

  • Catharine Brown, Complaint

    Catharine Brown filed suit against the Washington, Alexandria and Georgetown Railroad in March 1868, arguing that a month earlier she was forcibly and violently ejected from the ladies car in Alexandria, Virginia, because of her color. She sought damages of $20,000 to pay for her medical care and to compensate for the injustice of segregation and discrimination. Brown's original petition focused on the railroad's duty as a common carrier and on Brown's first-class ticket which permitted her to ride in the ladies car.

  • | Letter

    Breif report on slave market in New Orleans

    In this February 18, 1861 letter from A. J. Rux to E.H. Stokes, Rux briefly describes the state of the slave market in New Orleans.

  • | Photograph

    Boxcars with Refugees at Railroad, Atlanta, Ga., 1864

    With the capture of Atlanta, General William T. Sherman?s army seized an important rail hub for the Confederacy. This image of refugees and African Americans, sitting on rail cars with their possessions, indicates the massive displacement that came with the war.

  • Bishop Campbell's Indignity

    The expulsion of an African American preacher from a Georgia rail car draws the ire of Philadelphia citizens.

  • | Contract

    Bill of Sale for South Carolina Slaves, February 22, 1827

    This February 22, 1827 bill describes the sale of a dozen South Carolina slaves—"Dolly, Jacke, Jemmy, Grace, Dinah, Liddy, John and an infant, Paul, Hagar, Jack and Jane"—from "the estate of Arnoldus Vanderhorst, deceased" to Edward Frost for $3,020. Frost was President of the Blue Ridge Rail Road in South Carolina.

  • | Legal decision

    Benjamin H. Hinds Deposition

    Catharine Brown's attorneys deposed two white men who were on the train with Brown and witnessed her expulsion from the cars in Alexandria. Both lived in Maine and were deposed in December 1869. Benjamin Hinds' testimony was particularly significant because he described in detail the violence he witnessed, and because he knew Brown "since January 1866," perhaps from her work in the U.S. Capitol, and tried to intervene on her behalf.

  • | Photograph

    Barricades at Alexandria, Virginia.

  • | Letter

    Attorney General W.P. Bocark's Opinion Regarding the Bureau of Public Works' Liability for Slaves Killed on Blue Ridge Railroad, November 1, 1854

    When two slaves were killed on the Blue Ridge Tunnel project, slaveholders held the Virginia Board of Public Works, which had hired slaves through contractors, liable for the losses. Affidavits were taken on the value of the slaves, their character and history. The Attorney General of Virginia, W. P. Bocock, ruled that whether the slaves were killed on the Virginia Central Rail Road Co. or the Blue Ridge project was immaterial, and that the Board of Public Works was liable for reasonable compensation to the slaveholders.

  • | Annual report

    Annual Report to the President and Directors of the Board of Public Works, 1850

    When proposed and the first efforts made in 1850, the Blue Ridge Tunnel was to be the longest tunnel in North America. Claudius Crozet, as chief engineer, warns his Board of Public Works against comparing its progress with other tunnels. The condition of the rock and the scale of the project were different and unprecedented, respectively. Crozet tries to educate the Board on the nature of the project.

  • | Law

    An Act to Require Railroad Companies to Provide Separate Cars for White and Colored Passengers

    Virginia's separate coach law, approved in January of 1900 and enacted July 1900.

  • | Photograph

    African American wood choppers? hut on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad

    African American wood choppers? hut on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Black men, many of them formerly enslaved on the South?s railroads, chopped timber for railroad ties, bridges, and fuel for the U.S. Military Railroads. Stationed at remote camps, such as this, they also faced the constant danger of Confederate partisan and guerrilla raids.

  • | Photograph

    African American Laborers on the U.S. Military Railroad in Northern Virginia, c. 1862 or 1863

    From the beginning of the Civil War, African Americans worked on the railroads, transferring their labor to the Union cause.

  • | Book

    A Voice From the South: By A Woman of the South

    Anna J. Cooper, the first African American woman to earn a PhD, worked as a speaker, educator, and reformer. In this excerpt from Voice From the South Cooper addresses the contrast between the expectations of any middle-class, well-dressed woman traveling and the realities of the experience for African American women. Read with Richard Wells' Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society, also featured on this site.

  • | Pamphlet

    A Republican Text-Book for Colored Voters

    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.

  • | Photograph

    A Manicure on the "Modern Train"

    This image from The Modern Railroad (1911) captures a white, female passenger receiving a manicure from an African-American woman while aboard the railroad.

  • | Newspaper

    "Jim Crow" Law To Be Tested

    The restrictions of Jim Crow laws are tested by Virginia's Pamunkey Indians.

  • | Letter

    This 1858 list shows the name, gender, color, and age of slaves sold, possibly for tax purposes.