In the 1800s, free blacks were not free.
In an eerie precursor to Montgomery, black folks were not allowed to ride the street cars in Philadelphia or to otherwise live as free persons. Black folks who tried to ride street cars were subject to beatings, unless they stayed on the platform outside the body of the car.
Radio Times discusses the first American civil rights movement, which included gaining the right to ride street cars in Philly. The movement was news to the authors of the book, news to the interviewer, and news to me, even though my field of study in history was U. S. Southern (yeah, Philly ain’t southern, but even so this was relevant).
From the website:
Philadelphia Inquirer writer MURRAY DUBIN and Philadelphia Inquirer editor and Pulitzer Prize winner DANIEL BIDDLE tell the story of Octavius Valentine Catto, a 19th century, southern-born, ‘free’ black man who moved north. In Philadelphia, he was a teacher at an African American school, a second baseman on Philadelphia’s black baseball team and became a civil rights pioneer who spent his life educating newly freed slaves, long before the modern civil rights era. Dubin and Biddle’s new book is called, “Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America.”
Follow the link to learn more or listen here (MP3).
It is so much easier to deny rather than to confront or admit bigotry.
Hence the fiction that the Civil War was about anything–anything–other than chattel slavery.