Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson / Edition 1

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Through a reexamination of the earliest struggles against Jim Crow, Blair Kelley exposes the fullness of African American efforts to resist the passage of segregation laws dividing trains and streetcars by race in the early Jim Crow era. Right to Ride chronicles the litigation and local organizing against segregated rails that led to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 and the streetcar boycott movement waged in twenty-five southern cities from 1900 to 1907. Kelley tells the stories of the brave but little-known men and women who faced down the violence of lynching and urban race riots to contest segregation.

Focusing on three key cities—New Orleans, Richmond, and Savannah—Kelley explores the community organizations that bound protestors together and the divisions of class, gender, and ambition that sometimes drove them apart. The book forces a reassessment of the timelines of the black freedom struggle, revealing that a period once dismissed as the age of accommodation should in fact be characterized as part of a history of protest and resistance.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kelley skillfully traces the development of protest activity in the black community, deftly exploring the fissures of race, class, and gender in each locale."--North Carolina Historical Review

"Kelley's emphasis on southern protests and their leadership is historically significant."--Journal of Southern History

"This excellent book is the first monographic treatment of the wave of streetcar boycotts that swept across the South at the beginning of the twentieth century to protest the advent of racial segregation on municipal trolley lines. . . . [Kelley] is to be commended for re-emphasizing these boycotts' significance."--American Historical Review

"Kelly's Right to Ride is a well-written book that can be appreciated by both academics and a general readership….A valuable resource for anyone wanting to learn more about segregation and protest during this era." --Southern Historian

"The first comprehensive study of the streetcar boycott movement. . . . An important contribution to our understanding of the long Civil Rights Movement and may be the first author to place its origin in the antebellum North. . . . Exceptional, clear and persuasive. . . . Compelling and fresh. This book and its arguments will be around for a long time and will be the foundations of future studies of segregation and transportation for years to come."--Left History

"Blair L. M. Kelley's remarkable monograph is the first book on the initial black resistance to laws segregating trains and streetcars. . . . Kelley has constructed detailed case studies. . . . Gives valuable new insight into the character of the 'nadir' generation."--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"The age of [Booker T.] Washington is most frequently remembered as an age of accommodation, when black people . . . cowered beneath the descending shadow of Jim Crow. . . . Blair Kelley alters our understanding of this era. . . . [Her] reassessment of the nadir encourages us to measure accomplishment with a long view, to judge first our willingness to sacrifice and refuse to denounce as cowards those who fail today so that we can win tomorrow."--The Nation

"Within her simply, yet elegantly written work, Kelley offers a number of important insights to the fields of African American, southern, urban, and civil rights history. . . . Should be required reading for scholars and undergraduate and graduate students, but it would also be accessible and rewarding for non-academics as well."--Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

"Detailed and panoramic. . . . Kelley's must-read telling of [the protestors'] stories finally does them more indelible justice than the old, fading newspaper accounts from either side that were the only authoritative source of the story until now."--Virginia Libraries

"Narrates the stories of courageous but obscure men and women who faced lynching to challenge segregation. . . . Kelley causes a reexamination of the period described by historians as the 'age of accommodation.'"--The Courier

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Blair L. M. Kelley is associate professor of history at North Carolina State University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 New York 15

The Antebellum Roots of Segregation and Dissent

2 The Color Line and the Ladies' Car 33

Segregation on Southern Rails before Plessy

3 Our People, Our Problem? 51

Plessy and the Divided New Orleans

4 Where Are Our Friends? 87

Crumbling Alliances and New Orleans Streetcar Boycott

5 Who's to Blame? 117

Maggie Lena Walker, John Mitchell Jr., and the Great Class Debate

6 Negroes Everywhere Are Walking 139

Work, Women, and the Richmond Streetcar Boycott

7 Battling Jim Crow's Buzzards 165

Betrayal and the Savannah Streetcar Boycott

8 Bend with Unabated Protest 195

On the Meaning of Failure

Notes 201

Bibliography 233

Index 247

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2011

    HIghly Recommended

    I enjoyed every page of it! Very talented writer/historian for sure!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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