Negro Rights

February 18, 1869


A court case regarding a women who was moved to a different train car that was specifically for black individuals.


A CASE UNDER THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL. Underwood's Infamy. A Railroad Company Mulcted in 1,600 By a Mixed Jury The case of Robert Stevens vs, The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Company was taken up in the United States Circuit Court (Judge Underwood) yesterday. This was an action brought by a negro man of Charleston, S. C., against the railroad company for violation of the civil rights bill. It is alleged that the defendants sold the plaintiff's wife a first-class ticket, and then, by force, put her in a se-cond-class car. Eighteen hundred dollars damages were claimed. S.M. Page and L. H. Chandler for the plaintiff; Steger & Sands and W.W, Gordon for the defendants. The defence held that an arrangement existed by which the convenience of the passengers and the interests of the company were promoted. Separate cars were set apart for colored persons. That at the time it is alleged that the offence was committed upon Mrs. Stevens these regulations were in force. It was not a second-class car, but a car designated as letter " D," for colored persons. The purser of the Aquia Creek boat testified that Mrs. Stevens presented a firstclass ticket. He had instructions from the company to organize passengers in a particular way, and to stamp their tickets with the proper letter of the car to which they should be assigned. The road divided passengers into four classes : 1st, ladies, and gentlemen accompanying them, and children, in car A ; 2d, gentlemen unaccompanied by ladies, in car B ; 3d, gentlemen smoking, in car C ; 4th, all negroes, in car D. After the able and exhaustive argument of counsel, Judge Underwood gave a charge to the jury which deserves more than the usual brief summary of points. Be commenced by saying that distinction of color was a relic of barbarism, which had disgraced the world too long. Happily, throughout the North it had been done away with, even in that sink of iniquity New York, where it had been retained longer than anywhere else, in order that the trade of the South might be kept by the merchants of the metropolis, it was this distinction of color that brought the United States in contempt all over Europe. Nowhere was the outrage of more frequent occurrence than in Virginia - a State which it had involved in ruin, preventing immigration, &c. The Judge then paid some attention to the alleged facts of the case, and called the attention of the jury particularly to the fact that the " colored lady " was put in a car one part of which was used entirely by smokers and drunken men. That this was the case, he said, there could be no doubt, as Virginia was noted for the drunkenness of her citizens. .Richmond is specially intemperate ? one of the most drunken cities on the face of the globe. Intemperance pervaded all classes ; and not even were the clergy excepted in this sweeping and libellous charge. Returning to the case in haud, the Judge repeated that all distinction of color must be abolished ; and in support of his proposition read from a Bible open before him the following verses (James, 24 chapter, 1-9 verses) : " My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment ; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place ; and say unto the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool : are ye not then partial in yourselves.and are become judges of evil thoughts ? Hearken my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him ? But ye have despised the poor. * * * * If ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." It only remained for him to say that upon this jury devolved the duty of making the railroad companies feel that they must treat all men alike. They had no right to make such rules as had been read in court. In rendering their verdict, the jury must not only consider the physical inconvenience sustained by the plaintiff, but must also consider the expense of bringing suit in a United States court, the employment of counsel, and render a verdict accordingly, although in this case they could not give the plaintiff more than 1,800, as no more was claimed. The jury then retired, and after an absence of about an hour returned a verdict allowing the plaintiff damages to the amount of sixteen hundred dollars. The following persons constituted the jury who rendered this verdict : Whites - Joseph Lovenberg, W. A. Parsons, 0. F. Robertson, D. W.. Hughes, F. J. Arnold, E, S. Howe, Willoughby Brown. Negroes - Reuben West, William Isham, Wyatt Lewis, Carter Stannard, and J. H. Smith.
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Joseph McEachon




“Negro Rights,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023,