A century before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings Graham defied the racial segregation of public transit in New York City. On July 16, 1854, Jennings (Graham was added to her name after marrying in 1860) was running late to church and tried to ride a white-only streetcar in Manhattan. The conductor told her they weren’t accepting black passengers. She was forced out of the streetcar, and a police officer inflicted injuries by physically pushing her.
“After dragging me off the car, he drove me away like a dog saying, not to be talking there and raising a mob or a fight,” said Jennings, quoted in Frederick Douglass’ Paper later that summer.