The Washington and Alexandria Railroad Car

The railroad's segregation of Catharine Brown in February 1868 and her subsequent lawsuit against the company came to the immediate attention of Senator Charles Sumner (Massachusetts) and Senator Waitman Willey (West Virginia), both of whom sat on the Senate's District of Columbia Committee. At their urging, the Senate Committee launched an investigation into the affair, deposed dozens of witnesses, and issued a stinging report against the railroad company. Many of these same witnesses testified later in Brown's civil suit against the railroad company.

In the Senate yesterday, Mr. Willey, from the District Committee, made a report on the resolution heretofore referred to said committee, instructing them to inquire into the alleged facts connected with the ejection of Kate Brown, a negro woman in charge of the ladies' retiring room of the Senate, and also instructing them to inquire as to what further legislation is necessary to protect the rights of passengers on the Washington and Alexandria railroad.

The committee find the facts to be as heretofore stated: that Congress has already provided in the charter that the company shall not make any distinction on account of race or color; that Kate Brown has instituted suit against the company for damages and that the policeman who ejected her from the cars has since been dismissed. The repeal of the charter, the committee say, would inflict great injury to travel; but if the result of the legal proceedings which Kate Brown has instituted shall not be satisfactory, or the future conduct of the company shall not be satisfactory, the resolution can be taken from the table, and the charter of the company repealed, or such measures adopted as shall be considered necessary to protect the rights of passengers upon said road. They, therefore, recommend that the resolution be laid on the table for the present.

About this Document

  • Source: The Washington and Alexandria Railroad Car
  • Publisher: Daily National Intelligencer
  • Date: June 18, 1868