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Colored TravelersMobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War$
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Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469628578

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469628578.001.0001

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Activist Respectability and the Birth of the “Jim Crow Car”

Activist Respectability and the Birth of the “Jim Crow Car”

(p.76) Chapter Three Activist Respectability and the Birth of the “Jim Crow Car”
Colored Travelers

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter 3 identifies the moment when colored travelers launched a movement in earnest. The movement took off in the late 1830s and early 1840s, when segregation on the Massachusetts railroad turned brutal. In part, this was because steam-powered passenger railroads were new. It was also because the president of one of the foremost Boston railroad lines created a novel invention, a separate car to carry black people and the poor. Rail road workers in Massachusetts dubbed the space the “Jim Crow car.” It was a method of racial control that institutionalized segregation as no method of transportation had before. In keeping with the criminalization of black mobility, the railroad directors not only insisted that people of color ride in the dirty, cramped spaces, but officials also employed conductors who served as enforcers and routinely beat, kicked, and ousted colored travelers who attempted to ride in the first-class car. To activists, standing up and risking white violence in the name of equality became a mark of black masculinity. In a strategy that continues to buttress civil rights protest today, colored travelers held the state accountable by turning to the courts for redress.

Keywords:   Jim Crow car, segregation, black masculinity, David Ruggles, The Colored American

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