THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW YORK CITY CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT OF THE 1800’S
Elizabeth Graham's decision not to get off the bus would affect many people. Ms. Jennings won a case that led to the desegregation of the New York City streetcar lines. She became famous as a 19th-century civil rights figure after insisting on her right to ride on an available New York City streetcar in 1854. Her eventually case led to desegregation of all New York City transit systems. The ruling set a precedent for railways across the country. Her case was important in setting policies for the new transportation service industry.
Ms. Jennings's legal win did not completely end segregation in city transit in 1855. Within a month of Ms. Jennings decision, a Black man named Peter Porter was banned from an 8th avenue rail car. He also sued the company and settled out of court. Many blacks continued to test Ms. Jennings’ precedent. Many people used the Legal Rights Association that her father created for help with discrimination. Although, segregation in New York’s streetcars was supposed to have ended by 1861, it would not be completely prohibited by the state legislature until 1873. The Third Avenue Railroad Company directed its drivers to allow African Americans on all of its cars.
Despite Ms. Jennings’ success in New York, one hundred years later, a Black woman sat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. In the spirit of Elizabeth Jennings, Rosa Parks stood her ground. She was not willing to accept less than equality.
PRESIDENT CHESTER ARTHUR
Chester Arthur , the 21st U.S. president, took office after the death of President James Garfield As president from 1881 to 1885, Arthur supported civil service laws.
In 2007, after a group of 3rd and 4th grade students from P.S.361 on the Lower East Side worked to have a street named after Ms. Jennings. “Now, high on a pole at the corner of Park Row and Spruce, across the street from City Hall Park, rests a partially obstructed street sign which reads Elizabeth Jennings Place. The sign in her name now proudly stands over the bus stop at the intersection that started a movement. Today, people—people of all colors—board their buses,” reads an article in Downtown Magazine about the heroine.
New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit Museum shows artifacts from the past, such as old subway cars, antique turnstiles, and much more. It also has a gallery dedicated to the history of above ground transportation for the last 175 years (from the early 1800s through the 21st Century). According to the NYC MTA flyer for the exhibit, an important part of this exhibition “tells the story of Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1830 - 1901)., an African-American schoolteacher who won a landmark legal decision that defined the rights of people of color to ride any public conveyance on the city's street. Ms. Graham's victory occurred 100 years before Rosa Parks won a U.S Supreme Court case in the 1950s, that gave African-Americans the right to sit anywhere in a public bus.”
Mrs. Graham’s decision to fight was one of the first of many before Rosa Parks’ act of defiance and the boycott of all boycotts. Great Americans, like Mrs. Graham were introductions to the Rosa Parks events and the Civil Rights Movement that would affect many American in the 19th century and beyond – even still today
As an older woman, Elizabeth Jennings Graham established, on the first floor of her house at 237 West 41st Street, the city's first kindergarten for black children. The children made art; they planted roots and seeds in the garden. According to an article, a sign on the school read, "Love of the beautiful will be instilled into these youthful minds