In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings was forcefully thrown out of a whites-only streetcar in New York (Anderson 28). The only reason for being ejected out of the horse-drawn streetcar was that she was black. At that time, segregation was common in the public transit systems of New York City. Black people had to travel in different public transport systems from white people. However, on that material day, Elizabeth Jennings remained adamant when the conductor ordered her out of the streetcar. With the help of a police officer, Jennings was evicted out of the car (Anderson 28). The most significant challenge faced by Elizabeth Jennings at the time when she was evicted from the New York streetcar was that racism had been institutionalized and getting justice was not guaranteed for people of color. The streetcar was privately owned and had its own rules of segregating passengers.
Regardless of the racial challenges in the society, Jennings took her case to court. She sued Third Avenue Railroad Company for discrimination (DeRamus 229). She had enough grounds to challenge her eviction. First, the streetcar was not full, as the conductor had alleged. Second, the conductor caused personal harm to her by forcefully evicting her from the streetcar. She also suffered psychological harm because quite a crowd had gathered to witness her humiliation in public. Lastly, there was no basis in law that supported the exclusion rules of the company.
The judge presiding the case agreed that Jennings had the same rights as any other person and could not be not be excluded from the bus by the company rules (Anderson 28). For that reason, she was compensated, and the company desegregated its cars. Her actions were crucial to the desegregation of the public transport systems. It also encouraged other black people to take legal action against companies that discriminated them.
Anderson, Jennifer Joline. Civil rights movement. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company, 2011. Print.
DeRamus, Betty. Freedom by Any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Print.