Civils Rights on the Railroad Cars

January 7, 1871

Summary

An African-American man spoke to the House about the condition of dirty railroad cars with no sitting room, opposed to the white men that had clean cars and a sitting room. Mr. Ragsdale called for the house to discuss this topic. The House voted to not legislate on the condition of "colored" cars. The arguments were going in the plaintiff's favor until Mr. Ragsdale interrupted and jeopardized the vote. The House members were tired about discussing the rights of "colored" people and declined to legislate on this topic.

Transcription

An African-American man spoke to the House about the condition of dirty railroad cars with no sitting room while white men had clean cars and sitting room. Mr. Ragsdale called for the house to discuss this topic. The House voted to not legislative on this topic of having to confer the railroad car companies about the condition of "colored" cars. The arguments were going in the plaintiff's favor until Mr. Ragsdale interrupted and jeopardized the vote. The House members were tired about discussing the rights of "colored" people and declined to legislate on this topic. Article Transcription: CIVIL RIGHTS ON THE RAILROAD CARS. The resolution of Mr. Ragsdale (col'd), providing for the appointment of a committee to confer with railroad presidents as to the propriety of setting apart separate cars for colored passengers, came up as unfinished business. Mr. Kelly said that when this resolution was introduced he regarded it as the first token that the Republican members of this House had a proper appreciation of the privileges extended to the colored race by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and had given up the extravagant ideas which had hitherto borne fruit in aspirations for mixed schools, and a mixture of colors in public houses and conveyances. When the member from Charlotte (Mr. Ragsdale) proposed separate cars for colored travellers, the speaker was glad to see that two-thirds of the Conservatives on this floor appreciated the justice of the claim, and came manfully lo his rescue. He had been equallv surprised to see that a majority of the Republican members had joined about one-third of the Conservatives to lay the resolution offered by one of their own number on the table. He urged the colored members not to rudely reject, as they seemed inclined, the concession which the whites were now willing to make. This resolution should be adopted, or some more decided action taken to accomplish its object. Mr. Stevens (colored) gave his reasons for opposing the resolution. He thought it class legislation. The gentleman (Mr. Ragsdale) proposed to set apart a sort of Jim Crow car for negroes, and that thev should be allowed to go into no other. This was proscription of the worst kind. It gives the colored people less than their rights, and they ought not to accept any such compromise. There is a good deal of talk about civil lights. The question of civil rights is only a question of time, and all resistance is in vain. There is no stopping the progressive spirit of the age. Such an olive branch as this must not be accepted, for it conceals an adder. As to the colored people having a separate car, they have one already. Mr. Ragsdale (colored), interrupting the speaker, said they now have a car in which colored ladies are subject to all kinds of disagreeable things, and in which the whites show the race no respect. The Constitution and Bill of Rights protected him (Mr. Ragsdale) in the General Assembly, but it did not protect him in the railroad cars. If the white man behaved himself no better in the car for. smokers and colored people, he would rather he should be in Europe than in the car with him. Mr. Stevens said he had always heard that the man who respected himself was most likely to be respected. He assured the House that the mover of the resolution was not sustained by the Republican members, nor by his race generally. Equal political rights they had a right to demand as citizens, and as these rights had been denied them by this Legislature, they would now wait. Mr. Morgan (colored), Of Petersburg, agreed with the last speaker, and spoke to the same effect. He repudiated any desire for social equality, but he did demand what the members of this Legislature had sworn to give his race-civil and political equality. Mr. R. Norton (colored), of York, spoke in the same strain-recalling particularly the provisions of the Constitution and bill of rights in regard to civil and political equality, and urging that their provisions had not been carried out in good faith. The morning hour being about to expire, Mr. McCaull called the pending question. It was ordered, and thereupon the resolution was voted down with very few dissenting voices.
About this article

Contributed By

Megan Wiora

Identifier

WioraMegan-18710107-CivilRightsonRailroadCars.pdf

Citation

“Civils Rights on the Railroad Cars,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1918.