Railroad Corporations

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.

Railroad Corporations

Mr. Garrison,

Having had occasion, in the House, a few days before the close of the session of our late Legislature, to rebuke the proprietors of the Eastern Railroad, for their insulting treatment of colored passengers, I then intimated that that was the only Railroad Corporation in this Commonwealth, which subjected persons of color to such treatment. The intimation was made on the authority of persons, whom I supposed to be fully informed in the premises. But I have since learned, from personal observation, that the proprietors of the Boston and Providence Railroad are guilty of the same scandalous and cruel conduct. On taking my seat, on Thursday morning last, as I was returning home from Boston, in one of the cars on this Road, I observed near me an elderly and a very respectable-looking colored man. Soon after the train started this venerable man, who had paid as much for his ticket as I had for mine, and who had therefore the same right to be there that I or any other passenger had, was insultingly ordered, by an underling of the Corporation, to quit the car; he was treated little better than those of his color are treated by the 'hyenas' of the Eastern Railroad. I therefore take back whatever of compliment may have been implied by my remarks in the House to the Boston and Providence Railroad.

The gross indignity offered to that grey-haired old man, elicited expressions of strong disapprobation from several of the passengers who had witnessed it. On the other hand, none defended or seemed to approve it. One gentleman, whom I understood to be a Southerner, remarked, that in no part of the civilized world were colored people treated so shabbily as in New England. And if he meant, that no where else were they so shabbily treated, because of their color, the remark was quite correct. He remarked also that several of his slaveholding friends, traveling on one of our Railroads, interfered, on one occasion, to protect a colored citizen from the indignity of being thrust out of the car, on account of his complexion merely, and nobly insisted that he should not be put out unless they also were ejected. Let it be remembered, therefore, that even slaveholders have more politeness and more humanity, than are to be found in some of our New England Railroad Companies. The truth is, the former are disgusted with the diabolical hypocrisy of the latter, who welcome filthy, drunken, blasphemous blackguards - so that they be supposed to have a white skin beneath the incrustation of dirt encasing their loathsome carcasses - to occupy their cars on terms of perfect equality with our most fastidious epidermis-aristocrats, while they thrust out persons of color, though never so well educated, talented and virtuous, as unworthy to sit in the presence of gentlemen.

How long shall these 'soulless Corporations' be suffered thus to trample on the rights of citizens of this 'old time-honored Commonwealth?' It is high time that the people should look into this matter. That such tyranny is either constitutional, or equal or consistent with the principles which governed the Legislature in granting its authors their respective charters, none but a knave or fool will pretend. The meanness and rascality of its authors are aggravated by the fact that their corporate privileges were obtained, in part, by the votes, as their roads were constructed, in part, by the credit of the very persons over whom they tyrannise so outrageously.

Truly yours,


About this Document

  • Source: The Liberator
  • Author: George Bradburn
  • Published: City
  • Date: April 2, 1841