Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York

Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York

Amy Hill Hearth uncovers the story of a little-known figure in U.S. history in this biography. In 1854, a young African American woman named Elizabeth Jennings won a major victory against a New York City streetcar company, a first step in the process of desegregating public transportation in Manhattan.One hundred years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus...

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Title:Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York
Author:Amy Hill Hearth
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Edition Language:English

Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York Reviews

  • Yvette

    Amy Hill Hearth brings to life this little-known story of a fascinating, historical figure. The tale of how Elizabeth Jennings stood firm against racial injustice and discrimination takes place one hundred years before Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement. Hearth includes much of her research via comprehensive notes and references. This book is a must-have for anyone, young or old, who is interested in the origins of civil rights in America.

  • Beth Clark

    I can see why Amy Hill Hearth is a New York Times best-selling author. This book is multifaceted, containing layers of information, giving a broad picture of the history of the time and its impact on the present. One thing that struck my interest was how the author came to write the book and the process she used to ferret out little known information. She saw an abandoned house that interested her, discovered it belonged to President Chester Arthur, and learned that one of his first cases as a l

    I can see why Amy Hill Hearth is a New York Times best-selling author. This book is multifaceted, containing layers of information, giving a broad picture of the history of the time and its impact on the present. One thing that struck my interest was how the author came to write the book and the process she used to ferret out little known information. She saw an abandoned house that interested her, discovered it belonged to President Chester Arthur, and learned that one of his first cases as a lawyer was that of Elizabeth Jennings v. Third Avenue Railroad Company. Hearth then went on to do multiple library and web searches over a more than 10 year period to gain more information. She retraced the steps of Elizabeth Jennings twice.

    The next layer is a broad picture of New York City in the period surrounding the 1850s: the landscape, the industries, education, and the political climate particularly surrounding the treatment of black Americans. She was able to discover newspapers, photos, and drawings depicting life in the city at that time.

    Hearth does an excellent job conveying the contributions of Elizabeth Jennings and her family. 100 years before Rosa Parks rode the bus, Jennings, a middle class black woman in her early twenties, was on her way to play the organ for her church choir practice. She was ordered off the bus because of her skin color and refused to leave. She was brutally man-handled. Chester Arthur helped to win her case against the railroad company. This case ensured that black people would be able to ride the street cars in NYC and set a precedent for America. Jennings went on to start the first free kindergarten for black children in NYC. She taught school throughout her adult life advocating for education for black children.

    Jennings’ father, Tomas, started and joined many organizations “to promote the improvement of colored people in morals, literature, and the mechanic arts." He was awarded what was perhaps the first patent received by a black American signed by John Quincy Adams. Thomas volunteered in the military in the war of 1812 and his wife Elizabeth Cartwright’s father Jacob had been a black soldier in the Revolutionary War.

    Along with the illustrations and documents in the book, there is also a time line of events in history, list of important locations, and a list of suggested readings. This is an excellent book to use for either Black History Month (February) or Woman’s History Month (March).

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

    One hundred years before Rosa Parks' experiences with segregated transportation, Elizabeth Jennings fought her own battle with the segregated streetcars in New York City. While black men and women were free in many parts of the north at this time, there was still a lot of fear because of the practice of slavery in the south. Jennings was a "respectable woman" who attempted to ride a street car to her church with a friend. At the time, the practice was that blacks could r

    E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

    One hundred years before Rosa Parks' experiences with segregated transportation, Elizabeth Jennings fought her own battle with the segregated streetcars in New York City. While black men and women were free in many parts of the north at this time, there was still a lot of fear because of the practice of slavery in the south. Jennings was a "respectable woman" who attempted to ride a street car to her church with a friend. At the time, the practice was that blacks could ride the "white" streetcars at the discretion of the conductor. If other riders complained, the person would have to take a "Jim Crow" car, which might not have as direct a route. In Jennings' case, there were no riders who complained, but the conductor did not want to let her on. When Jennings voiced her complaints and demanded to be allowed to ride, the conductor drove her to a police station to have her arrested. Her case went to court, where she was defended by the future president Grover Cleveland, who was a new lawyer at the time. This very obscure bit of history was very thoroughly researched by the author, the many sources used are listed in a bibliography and have footnotes. Some of the newspaper articles are included alongside the text. The afterword on how Hearth came to investigate this case is interesting as well.

    Strengths: This was just long enough to cover the pertinent information while still being interesting and compelling. Sometimes, middle grade nonfiction gets to be too involved to keep readers' interest. Hearth gives a good background of what life was like for different groups of people at the time. I really enjoyed this one, and think it is important for young readers to understand what life was like in the past. If I polled my students, I would guess that most of them are of the opinion that ALL black people in 1854 were slaves.

    Weaknesses: The cover of this is not great, and I might want to take a look at a print copy to see how the pages are set up before purchasing.

    What I really think: We need a lot more interesting, narrative nonfiction about topics like this!

  • Kris - My Novelesque Life

    RATING: 4.5 STARS

    (I received an ARC from the EDELWEISS)

    (Review Not on Blog)

    What a fabulous book for children and adults. Before Rosa Parks there was Elizabeth Jennings trying to win the right to ride on a streetcar. On her way to church she decides to board the first streetcar that comes and is forcibly removed by the driver. She takes this fight to court and wins, but we don't really hear about Jennings in history so this was great to read. I love the way this book is outlined and would recomme

    RATING: 4.5 STARS

    ​​(I received an ARC from the EDELWEISS)

    (Review Not on Blog)

    What a fabulous book for children and adults. Before Rosa Parks there was Elizabeth Jennings trying to win the right to ride on a streetcar. On her way to church she decides to board the first streetcar that comes and is forcibly removed by the driver. She takes this fight to court and wins, but we don't really hear about Jennings in history so this was great to read. I love the way this book is outlined and would recommend it to anyone to read. This would be a great read with kids.

  • Margie

    Before there was Rosa Parks in Alabama, there was Elizabeth Jennings in New York City. In 1854 Elizabeth wanted to get to church where she was accompanist for the choir. At the time there was a very convoluted system of which streetcars African Americans could ride and when, however there were also exceptions to the rules. Elizabeth tried to capitalize on the exceptions but was literally thrown off the streetcar she tried to board. Thus starts a legal fight to gain rights to board streetcars in

    Before there was Rosa Parks in Alabama, there was Elizabeth Jennings in New York City. In 1854 Elizabeth wanted to get to church where she was accompanist for the choir. At the time there was a very convoluted system of which streetcars African Americans could ride and when, however there were also exceptions to the rules. Elizabeth tried to capitalize on the exceptions but was literally thrown off the streetcar she tried to board. Thus starts a legal fight to gain rights to board streetcars in New York City. This interesting book includes many photos, drawings and use of primary sources.

    Not only was Elizabeth an African American but also a woman. Extensive notes, a bibliography, index, and illustration credits make this not only a fascinating read but a valuable look at life during this period of time in New York City and the country as a whole.

  • Melinda

    Quick and interesting middle grade nonfiction. What makes the book particularly special, I think, is its joint focus on Jennings' story AND on how stories like hers can be virtually lost to history (and later uncovered). I think some kids will be fascinated by the idea that they, too, can discover a great historical mystery.

  • Morgan Acevedo

    This was an informative, middle grades novel reflective of the hardships faced by African-American individuals while segregation was still quite prevalent in the United States. There were a number of facts, statistics, and citations that allowed the author to seem credible and reliable. Though it wasn't my favorite book (more so because non-fiction and middle grades are not my genres of choice), I think this would be a very informative and educational book for the appropriate age range, especial

    This was an informative, middle grades novel reflective of the hardships faced by African-American individuals while segregation was still quite prevalent in the United States. There were a number of facts, statistics, and citations that allowed the author to seem credible and reliable. Though it wasn't my favorite book (more so because non-fiction and middle grades are not my genres of choice), I think this would be a very informative and educational book for the appropriate age range, especially for those who enjoy historical facts.

  • Elizabeth

    I appreciate learning more about historical figures lost to time. I give credit that I'm reading an uncorrected proof, so the grammatical errors and blank captions are understandable. But I'm baffled by the dry writing, wasted space, and the 38 pages at the end that are either bibliography or completely blank. This is meant for children, but they will be really bored. The historical facts could have been worked into the narrative to make it more engaging and less choppy. It reads like a book rep

    I appreciate learning more about historical figures lost to time. I give credit that I'm reading an uncorrected proof, so the grammatical errors and blank captions are understandable. But I'm baffled by the dry writing, wasted space, and the 38 pages at the end that are either bibliography or completely blank. This is meant for children, but they will be really bored. The historical facts could have been worked into the narrative to make it more engaging and less choppy. It reads like a book report of a textbook. I would want more for my students and children.

  • Sarah

    I received this through Edelweiss.

    This tells the story of basically unknown Elizabeth Jennings, an African American women, who challenged unfair laws in the late 1800s. When Jennings was violently forced off of a streetcar for being African American, she fought back legally, in hopes of changing the law and fighting for equality. This early equality fighter challenged her time and even though she slipped through the public's knowledge, her actions helped those that came after her.

    I think this

    I received this through Edelweiss.

    This tells the story of basically unknown Elizabeth Jennings, an African American women, who challenged unfair laws in the late 1800s. When Jennings was violently forced off of a streetcar for being African American, she fought back legally, in hopes of changing the law and fighting for equality. This early equality fighter challenged her time and even though she slipped through the public's knowledge, her actions helped those that came after her.

    I think this was an interesting historical figure and I am glad she has been brought to light. Most of this novel felt like it was written for adults/educators, instead of being written for children. I am glad this book exists, but it was rather dry.

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