Sunday, January 16, 2022

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VIII. ANTEBELLUM DISCRIMINATION

Slaves might accompany their masters in steamboat facilities in the South, but African-Americans traveling on their own often received shabby treatment. William Chambers wrote of the inferior eating areas for coloreds on a steamer crossing the Susquehanna river. Steamboats often had separate quarters for negroes, sometimes in the hull next to the crew.

Even in northern states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, African-Americans received second class treatment. The courts reasoned that the common law obligation of carriage did not cover the manner and location and allowed companies to exclude African-Americans from the enclosed portion of vehicles. Samuel Ringgold Ward wrote of other discrimination in the North. His ticket for a voyage to Liverpool had a notation that specifically required him to eat in his cabin because of his race, and his wife and children were excluded from a ship's cabin on a trip from New York to Canada. Although a conductor in Ohio who excluded an African-American from a streetcar was convicted of battery, the exclusion was total and the opinion did not require equal facilities. In short, carriers freely discriminated against African-Americans before the war in both the North and the South, contending successfully either that they were justified in excluding them or in treating them as second-class travelers so long as they were carried.

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