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Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy$
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Kyle G. Volk

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199371914

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199371914.001.0001

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“Jim Crow Conveyances” and the Politics of Integrating the Public

“Jim Crow Conveyances” and the Politics of Integrating the Public

(p.132) 5 “Jim Crow Conveyances” and the Politics of Integrating the Public
Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy

Kyle G. Volk

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores contests over racial segregation in public transportation that came to dominate abolitionists’ agenda for the protection of minority rights in the 1850s. Black and white activists took on transit corporations in the streets, before legislatures, and in courtrooms, where they attempted to hold these businesses accountable to constitutional and common-law guarantees of equality. This chapter focuses on the pioneering Legal Rights Association that black New Yorkers, led by abolitionists James W. C. Pennington and James McCune Smith, created to establish their right to ride in streetcars, steamboats, and rail cars on equal terms with whites. It concludes by showing how this rights-based associational life expanded by the late-1850s and early-1860s as blacks in Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and elsewhere organized to integrate public transportation despite continued claims that the majority of white travelers rejected their presence.

Keywords:   racial segregation, public transportation, Legal Rights Association, Jim Crow, minority rights, abolitionists, equality

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