Psst, wanna know who Elizabeth was?
Known as “the schoolteacher on the streetcar,” Elizabeth Jennings stood up for her civil rights by sitting down. Much like Rosa Parks — but more than a century earlier — Jennings challenged segregation when she was 24 years old by insisting on her right to a seat on a New York City streetcar, even after a white conductor ordered her to leave.
During the July 16, 1854, incident, Jennings was forcibly removed from the vehicle and pushed into the street by the conductor and a police officer.
After her letter describing her treatment was published in the New York Tribune, she successfully sued the Third Avenue Railway Company. Jennings was represented by Chester A. Arthur — who would become president of the United States in 1881 — and she collected $225 in damages, according to the African American Registry.
Her case established an important precedent, and most of the streetcar lines in New York City were integrated by 1860.
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