TRANSIT EQUITY: A HISTORICAL TIMELINE

By Eboni Preston, Georgia NAACP, and Judy Asman, Labor Network for Sustainability

 

1841

1841

September 29, 1841

Frederick Douglass and his friend James N. Buffum entered a train car reserved for white passengers in Lynn, Massachusetts. When the conductor ordered them to leave the car, they refused. Douglass’ and Buffum’s actions led to similar incidents on the Eastern Railroad. Widespread organizing led Congress to grant equal rights to Black citizens in public accommodations with the Civil Rights Act of 1875. However, the Supreme Court overturned this victory in 1883, declaring it unconstitutional.

Source: Peter Lauranzano, Primary Research >>

1878

1878

January 14, 1878

The Court overturned a Louisiana Supreme Court decision that had awarded damages authorized by a Louisiana statute to Josephine DeCuir, a Black woman, who had been refused admission to a steamship’s stateroom reserved for whites during her voyage between New Orleans and Hermitage, Louisiana.

Source: Prairie View, A&M University >>

August 14, 1884

August 14, 1884

August 14, 1884

A group of four Black sisters from Baltimore–Martha and Winnie Stewart, Mary M. Johnson and husband James, and Lucy Jones and husband Charles–along with their aunt, Pauline Braxton, protested in the saloon of Steamer Sue all night long after being denied lodging in the first-class cabins.  The sisters, who were en route to Virginia to visit their mother, had purchased first-class tickets in advance. Yet, Martha had found herself locked out of her room and an hour into the voyage, a chambermaid informed them the captain would not permit them to stay in the first-class part of the vessel because Blacks were not allowed there. The family was told to stay in another part of the steamer near horses and other cattle, which the sisters called “filthy and unkempt,” to which they refused. When the women returned to Baltimore they filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore, Chesapeake, and Richmond Steamboat Company. On Feb. 2, 1885, “Judge C.J. Morris pronounced his verdict in favor of the Stewart sisters, who were each awarded $100 in damages,” Baltimore Sun reported.

Sources: Rediscovering Black History | National  Council for Social  Studies | Baltimore Sun

March 2, 1888

March 2, 1888

March 2, 1888

Mississippi passes a law requiring all passenger railroads to provide separate but equal accommodations.

Source: Cornell Law School >>

September 15, 1892

September 15, 1892

September 15, 1892

The Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America is founded in Indianapolis. American Federation of Labor Samuel Gompers prompted the forming of the union by inviting street railway associations to start an international union. A three-day convention started on September 12, 1892 with 52 delegates representing the AFL and Knights of Labor.

Source: Amalgamated Transit Union >>

1895

1895

1895

Mary Fields becomes the first African American woman to drive a stagecoach as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. A former slave born in Tennessee, “Stagecoach Mary,” was in her early sixties when she beat out cowboys as the “fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses”–earning her this position where she protected mail against thieves and bandits while in transport.

Source: GrowingBolder.com >>

May 31, 1910

May 31, 1910

May 31, 1910

Chiles v. Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, Supreme Court case against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for desegregation of railroad coaches after he was removed by force to the Colored coach in spite of his first class ticket from Washington D.C. to Lexington.

Source: Library of Congress >>

1934

1934

1934

“Transport Workers Union of America founding president Michael J. Quill formed the union in New York in 1934. It was the height of the Great Depression, and through his active, militant approach to organizing, Quill brought together thousands of the city’s transit workers to fight back against the greedy companies taking advantage of them and of the nation’s dire economic situation. Workers were being hired and fired at will, they were underpaid, they were overworked, and they were mistreated; several previous attempts to organize a union had failed,” as told by TWU.

Source: Transport Workers of America >>

June 3, 1946

June 3, 1946

June 3, 1946

In Morgan v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law requiring racial segregation on commercial interstate buses as a violation of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Source: Thirteen.org >>

March 2, 1955

March 2, 1955

March 2, 1955

Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, a student at Booker T. Washington High School, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus. While not as high profile as the arrest of Rosa Parks nine months later, Ms. Colvin was the star witness in the Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case Ms. Colvin’s attorney Fred Gray filed one year later, which eventually ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama.

Source: NPR

December 1, 1955

December 1, 1955

December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks is arrested after failing to yield her seat to a white person on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her action leads to the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott.

Source: History.com >>

 

December 20, 1956

December 20, 1956

December 20, 1956

The federal ruling Browder v. Gayle took effect, leading to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

Source: Library of Congress >>

 

December 5, 1960

December 5, 1960

December 5, 1960

Boynton v. Virginia overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was “whites only.” It held that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation. It moreover held that bus transportation was sufficiently related to interstate commerce to allow the United States federal government to regulate it to forbid racial discrimination in the industry.

Source: Library of Congress >>

May 4, 1961

May 4, 1961

May 4, 1961

The first Freedom Rides leave Washington, D.C. White and African American activists hope to test adherence to anti-segregation rulings that cover commercial interstate travel.

Source: History.com >>

 

May 29, 1961

May 29, 1961

May 29, 1961

Attorney General Robert Kennedy petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to issue regulations banning segregation, and the ICC subsequently decreed that by November 1, 1961, bus carriers and terminals serving interstate travel had to be integrated.

Source: New York Times >>

October 5, 1961

October 5, 1961

October 5, 1961

At the personal invitation of Transport Workers Union founder Mike Quill, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers a speech at TWU’s 11th Constitutional Convention. “I bring greetings to you from the South, a section of our nation in transition. Mr. Quill has mentioned to you the struggle which took place in Montgomery, Alabama,” Dr. King said while referencing the bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’ peaceful refusal to give her seat. “And as a result of (the protesters’) willingness to suffer and sacrifice for some 381 days, I am happy to report that the buses of Montgomery, Alabama are now thoroughly integrated and Negro passengers can sit anywhere on the bus in that city.” Dr. King goes on to lift up the Freedom Ride movement and TWU as “a union of minorities.”

Source: Transport Workers Union of America: Transcription of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech

1963

1963

1963

At the old Transport Workers Union headquarters at 50th Street/Broadway in Manhattan, a sign bearing, “TWU says End Segregation,” hangs to promote the March on Washington, in which TWU participated, sending “busloads of people down.”

Source: Transport Workers Union

June 9, 1998

June 9, 1998

June 9, 1998

The Transportation Equity Act was enacted to authorize federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit from 1998 to 2003.

Source: Federal Highway Administration >>

2014

2014

2014

Seneca, South Carolina becomes the first city in the world to launch an all electric bus fleet, which outperformed diesel counterparts in fuel and maintenance costs. In USA Today, Mayor Alexander notes the importance of ”’providing a safe, reliable and environmentally friendly transportation system for Seneca residents who need it. Many of the riders are Clemson students, but also elderly and working poor folks’ who use them regularly.”

Source: USA Today

February 5, 2018

February 5, 2018

February 5, 2018

The Transit Equity Network launches its first Transit Equity Day in honor of Rosa Parks’ birthday on the Sunday before. The result was a successful day of action that included participation by organizations in dozens of cities around the U.S. to demand that local, state and federal governments make public transit accessible and affordable to all, create good jobs by expanding our public transit systems, and protect our health and climate by using renewable energy to power our buses and trains.

Source: Labor Network for Sustainability >>

 

March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

Amalgamated Transit Union issues a statement applauding Congressional passage of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $25 billion for critical emergency funding for public transit systems. “That is funding that should be used to keep transit workers safe on the job and keep service on the streets for people who rely on transit for essential services,” ATU said.

Source: Amalgamated Transit Union >>

May-June 2020

May-June 2020

May-June 2020

Bus drivers refuse to help police transfer protesters to jail after worldwide outrage against the murder of George Floyd. Unions, climate activists and equity groups stood in solidarity with demonstrators while backing transit workers.

Source: Negin Owlieai, Inequality.org >>