Elizabeth Jennings Graham-African American Woman Who Began Desegregation in New York City to Be Honored With Statue

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
29,569
Location
Long Island, NY
#1
liz.JPG


Elizabeth Jennings Graham​

New York City will soon erect a statue to Elizabeth Jennings Graham, the African American woman credited with beginning the process of desegregating New York City's mass transit system in 1854. The ststue will, appropriately, be near Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827-1901) challenged racial segregation well before the Civil Rights Movement when, on July 16, 1854, she boarded a streetcar that prohibited black passengers and refused to leave until forcibly removed by the police. Graham later won $225 in damages after successfully suing the Third Avenue Railroad Company, the conductor, and the streetcar driver. Her landmark case was the first step toward ending transit segregation in the City. Graham’s monument will be erected next to Grand Central Station.
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
29,569
Location
Long Island, NY
#2
From the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation:


On July 16, 1854, Elizabeth Jennings boarded a streetcar of the Third Avenue Railway Company on her way to play organ at the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church at 23-25 East 6th Street (today’s 228 East 6th Street, between Cooper Square and 2nd Avenue; the church has since been demolished and replaced with a tenement in 1890). At the time, public transportation typically did not serve African American passengers, but Jennings boarded the streetcar despite the reluctance of the conductor. However, soon after boarding, she was forcibly removed by the conductor and a policeman at the corner of Chatham Street (present-day Park Row) and Pearl Street.

ejg-pearl-300x250.png


ejg-1862-map-300x246.jpg

1862 Perris map showing the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. NYPL Digital Collection
Elizabeth wrote a letter about this experience which was published by Frederick Douglass and Horace Greeley in the New York Tribune. This led to a massive protest from New York’s African American community, and beyond. As published in the Tribune:

She got upon one of the Company’s cars last summer, on the Sabbath, to ride to church. The conductor undertook to get her off, first alleging the car was full; when that was shown to be false, he pretended the other passengers were displeased at her presence; but (when) she insisted on her rights, he took hold of her by force to expel her. She resisted. The conductor got her down on the platform, jammed her bonnet, soiled her dress and injured her person. Quite a crowd gathered, but she effectually resisted. Finally, after the car had gone on further, with the aid of a policeman they succeeded in removing her.

Jennings sued the company, the driver, and the conductor. She was represented by a young lawyer and future President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur. The court found in favor of Jennings and awarded her $225 in damages. As stated by the court, “Colored persons if sober, well behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could neither be excluded by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence.” While the case did not prevent future instances of African Americans being denied the use of public transportation, it did impact and set precedent for transit discrimination trials in the future.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Messages
29,569
Location
Long Island, NY
#4
The story behind the naming of the street corner is itself inspiring.

After finding out about Elizabeth Jennings in preparation for a performance on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a group of third- and fourth-grade students at P.S. 361 on the Lower East Side took the initiative in 2007 to get her name immortalized at the corner of Spruce Street and Park Row. After a year of attending meetings, gathering petition signatures, and pressuring elected officials, they were able to get a street sign named for her -- a feat that had been unsuccessful by another group of students in the 1990s. "She's an unknown hero that helped our state," said student Timothy Allan. "We actually took a stand in the world for what we thought was right," said another.

http://womensenews-openingtheway.blogspot.com/2010/12/story-behind-elizabeth-jennings-place.html
 



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top