Thursday, 30 June 2016


                             BLACK  SOCIAL  HISTORY

 Elizabeth Jennings Graham
Elizabeth Jennings Graham, ca. 1895.
Elizabeth Jennings Graham (March 1827 – June 8, 1901) was an African-American teacher and civil rights figure.

In 1854, Graham insisted on her right to ride on an available New York City streetcar, at a time when all such companies were private and most operated segregated cars. Her case was decided in her favor in 1855, and it led to the eventual desegregation of all New York City transit systems by 1865.

After the New York Draft Riots of July 1863, where there were numerous attacks against the black community, Graham and her husband Charles Graham left the city, moving to join her mother Elizabeth and sister Matilda Jennings in Eatontown, New Jersey. After his death 1867 Long Branch Monmouth, New Jersey, USA, she returned with her family to New York. Graham started the city's first kindergarten for black children, operating it from her home 237 41st Manhattan NYC in 1895-1901 School First Kindergarten Class for Black Children until her death in 1901.

1 Early life
2 Jennings v. Third Ave. Railroad
3 Later life
Early life
Elizabeth Jennings was born free March 1830, one of the three children of Thomas L. Jennings (1792-1859) and his wife, also named Elizabeth (1798-1873).[1] He was a free black and she was born into slavery. He became a successful tailor, the first known African-American holder of a patent in the United States (his was granted by New York State in 1821), and an influential member of New York's black community. With fees from his patented dry-cleaning process, Thomas Jennings bought his wife's freedom, as she was considered an indentured servant until 1827 under the state's gradual abolition law of 1799.[2][3] Their daughter Elizabeth, then, was born free and received an education.

Elizabeth Jennings's mother was a prominent woman who is known for her speech "On the Cultivation of Black Women’s Minds". Elizabeth Jennings, Sr. was a member of the Ladies Literary Society of New York, which was founded in 1834.[4] The literary society was founded by New York's elite black women to promote self-improvement through community activities, reading and discussion.[5] This speech was produced and given in 1837, when the younger Elizabeth was still a young child. In her speech, Elizabeth Jennings, Sr. speaks about how the neglect of the cultivating mind will keep the blacks inferior to the whites. This will also have the whites/enemies believe that the blacks do not have any minds at all. Jennings believed the mind was very powerful and could help with the improvement to abolish slavery and discrimination. Therefore, she called upon black women to have a mind and take action. The importance of improving the mind was a consistent theme among elite black women.[6]

By 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, Jr. had become a schoolteacher and church organist. She taught at the city's private African Free School, which had several locations by this time, and later in the public schools.

Jennings v. Third Ave. Railroad
In the 1850s, the horse-drawn streetcar on rails became a more common mode of transportation, competing with the horse-drawn omnibus in the city. (Elevated heavy rail, the next transportation mode in the city, did not go into service until 1869.) Like the omnibus lines, the streetcar lines were owned by private companies, and their owners and drivers could refuse service to any passengers. They enforced segregated seating.

On Sunday, July 16, 1854, Jennings set off for the First Colored Congregational Church, where she was organist. As she was running late, she boarded a streetcar of the Third Avenue Railroad Company at the corner of Pearl and Chatham Streets. The conductor ordered her to get off. When she refused, the conductor tried to remove her by force. Eventually, with the aid of a police officer, Jennings was ejected from the streetcar.

Horace Greeley's New York Tribune commented on the incident in February 1855:

She got upon one of the Company's cars last summer, on the Sabbath, to ride to church. The conductor undertook to get her off, first alleging the car was full; when that was shown to be false, he pretended the other passengers were displeased at her presence; but (when) she insisted on her rights, he took hold of her by force to expel her. She resisted. The conductor got her down on the platform, jammed her bonnet, soiled her dress and injured her person. Quite a crowd gathered, but she effectually resisted. Finally, after the car had gone on further, with the aid of a policeman they succeeded in removing her.

The incident sparked an organized movement among black New Yorkers to end racial discrimination on streetcars, led by notables such as Jennings' father Thomas, Rev. James W.C. Pennington, and Rev. Henry Highland Garnet. Her story was publicized by Frederick Douglass in his newspaper, and received national attention.

Jennings filed a lawsuit against the driver, the conductor, and the Third Avenue Railroad Company in Brooklyn, where Third Avenue was headquartered. This was one of four streetcar companies franchised in the city and had been in operation about one year. She was represented by the law firm of Culver, Parker, and Arthur. Her case was handled by the firm's 24-year-old junior partner, Chester A. Arthur, future President of the United States.

In 1855, the court ruled in her favor. In his charge to the jury, Brooklyn Circuit Court Judge William Rockwell declared:

Colored persons if sober, well behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could neither be excluded by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence.

The jury awarded Jennings damages in the amount of $250 (comparable to $6,000 to $10,000 in 2015 dollars), as well as $22.50 in costs. The next day, the Third Avenue Railroad Company ordered its cars desegregated.

The Jennings case was instrumental in establishing policy for what was a new service industry. A month after the verdict, Rev. Pennington was refused admission to a car of the Eighth Avenue Railroad, another of the first four companies. He won a similar judgment against that company when the case was appealed to the State Supreme Court. He was represented by the Legal Rights Association, founded by Thomas L. Jennings, Elizabeth's father.[7] After steps forward and back, a decade later in 1865, New York's public transit services were fully desegregated. The last case was a challenge by a black woman who was the widow of a United States Colored Troops soldier, a fact that won public support for her.[8]

Later life
Little is known about Jennings's later years. She married Charles Graham [1830-1867 Long Branch NJ] on [June 18, 1860 Manhattan NYC VOL #3] and had a son, Thomas J. Graham. He was a sickly child who died of convulsions at the age of one during the New York Draft Riots of July 16, 1863. With the assistance of a white undertaker, the Grahams slipped through mob-infested streets and buried their child in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. The funeral service was read by Rev. Morgan Dix of the Trinity Church on Wall Street.[9]

Like many other blacks after the riots, the Grahams moved out of Manhattan. They moved to Eatontown, New Jersey, where her mother and sister lived.[10] After her husband Charles died, Elizabeth, along with her mother Elizabeth and sister Matilda, moved back to New York City in the late 1860s or 1870.[11]

Elizabeth Jennings Graham lived her later years at 247 West 41st Street. She founded and operated the city's first kindergarten for black children in her home. She died in 1901 and was buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery along with her son and her husband.[7]


                                           BLACK  SOCIAL  HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Lillian Thomas Fox

Lillian J. B. Thomas Fox (1866–1917) was an African-American journalist and club woman active in Progressive Era Indianapolis. She rose to prominence in the 1880s and 1890s as a civic leader and writer for the Indianapolis Freeman, a leading national black newspaper at the time, and the later joined the Indianapolis News as Indiana's first black columnist for a white newspaper.[1] At the Freeman, where she was the only woman on the editorial staff, Fox's writings favored Booker T. Washington approach on black economic progress. She became a well-known speaker and activist, founding the Indianapolis Women’s Improvement Club and the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, as well as becoming involved in national organizations.[2] She was especially an advocate for improving access to public health and fighting tuberculosis within the Indiana black community.[3] Her pioneering column in the Indianapolis News, "News of the Colored Folk," ran for 15 years from 1900 to 1915 before her she retired for health reasons. In 2014, she was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.[4]


In 1900, black journalist and activist Lillian Thomas Fox shattered the class ceiling. Hired by the white male-dominated and white-owned Indianapolis News, Fox became the first African-American writer for a white newspaper in Indiana. She wrote a regular column and features about the nearly 16,000 black Hoosiers then living in Indianapolis.

The Washington, D.C., based Colored American newspaper said in a Feb. 19, 1900, column, “Mrs. Lillian Thomas-Fox, of Indianapolis, Ind., a literary woman of more than ordinary ability has been placed in charge of a column on the Indianapolis News, the leading afternoon paper in Indianapolis.

“She receives a snug salary and is the first colored woman in the West who has thus been recognized by the white daily press.”

Her column, News of the Colored Folk, ran until 1915 when failing eyesight forced her retirement.

In her speech, “Women in Journalism,” before the Afro-American Press Association in August 1900, Lillian was quoted in The Indianapolis Journal newspaper saying, “No human device holds a more exalted place in mankind’s regard than does the pen.”

Attired in her fashionable Gibson Girl style, including hat and gloves, the pioneer journalist traveled to speak and write about issues of importance to blacks and the nation. Two years after leaving The News, she died from a heart attack on Aug. 29, 1917.

Wilma L. Moore, African-American history senior archivist at the Indiana Historical Society, praised her accomplishments.

“Man or woman, black or white, Lillian Thomas Fox’s feats were extraordinary, remarkable and exceptional. She was a true leader with grit. And one of those rare souls who could write about it, talk about it, and do it.”

The eldest child of the Rev. Byrd Parker, pastor of Quinn African Methodist Episcopal Church, and schoolteacher Jane Janette Johnson, Lillian was born in Chicago in 1854. In 1860, the family lived in Oshkosh, Wis.

As a superb orator, Rev. Parker started an AME church and championed civil rights before the Wisconsin legislature. He died of pneumonia April 30, 1860.

Lillian’s widowed mother then married barber Robert E. Thomas, by whom she had four more children, and Lillian began using the name Thomas, which she continued throughout her life.

According to Ball State University student Frances A. Toler’s 1978 master’s thesis, Lillian moved to Indianapolis with her mother in 1885. She soon became a highly acclaimed state and national public speaker. In 1891, Fox was hired as a reporter and correspondent editor for the Indianapolis Freeman, a nationally prominent black newspaper.

“Lillian Thomas Fox was a woman ahead of her time,” said Toler, a recently retired educator with the Federal Judicial Center, living in Silver Spring, Md. “She was the only woman on the five-member editorial staff of the Indianapolis Freeman. The Freeman, largely supported by Booker T. Washington, was an advocate for ‘Negro self-betterment through economic independence.’

“All of the writers, including Lillian, wrote in a style to advance Washington’s philosophy. Of necessity, her writing style had to change when she was hired by The Indianapolis News,” Toler continues. “What did not change was her commitment to use her skills as a journalist to dispel the notion that blacks were not willing to work for their own betterment. Perhaps in her own way, she built a bridge between the white and black communities of Indianapolis.”

In 1892, the independent and self-confident woman was the first black person from Indianapolis to take the state civil service examination for clerkship.

In 1893, she married James E. Fox, a Jamaican immigrant tailor from Pensacola, Fla. He relocated his business to Indianapolis, and Lillian retired from The Freeman. In those days, educated, middle-class women were expected to tend to homemaking.

But she continued her involvement in community organizations, attaining national prominence as a public speaker at political and religious organizations. She founded the Indianapolis Women’s Improvement Club and was an organizing member of the Indianapolis Anti-Lynching League. She was Indiana’s representative to the executive committee of the National Afro-American Council. She was also an active member of the Afro-American Council, the Negro Business League, the Atlanta Congress of Colored Women at the 1895 National Exposition and the National Association of Colored Women.

Tragedy struck in 1893 when Lillian’s mother and brother, Charles Bushrod Thomas, died within two days of each other from tuberculosis.

Fox’s anguish turned to activism. She and Indianapolis’ first black female physician, Beulah Wright Porter, co-founded the Indianapolis Women’s Improvement Club in 1903.

According to a September 1984 Indiana Magazine of History article written by University of Rhode Island associate professor of history Earline Rae Ferguson, Fox and Porter “helped the club to become a forceful advocate for African-Americans suffering with TB at a time when health care was separate and unequal.”

Calling Fox “a superb organizer,” Ferguson also credits Fox with founding the Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Two years after their marriage, Lillian and her husband separated. He left Indianapolis after reportedly suffering business reverses. That prompted Lillian’s return to journalism. And that’s when she made journalism history by joining The Indianapolis News.

When the black community chronicler died, The Freeman wrote, “Lillian Thomas Fox worked tirelessly to ensure African-American community survival (physical, mental, holistic) and to end Jim Crow segregation. She was an original thinker and one who dare(d) to flout the dogma or philosophy be it ever so popular which do not consist with (her) cardinal principles of justice and right.”

African-American archivist Moore concurs, saying, “Lillian Thomas Fox was a progressive era journalist, an elocutionist and a club woman. A career woman and a caretaker, she sued the Southern Railroad for discrimination after she was denied seating in an area of a train for which she had paid.”

She is buried in Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery. The Indiana State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs paid for her grave marker, says Ferguson.

Moore calls Lillian Thomas Fox a leader and an advocate. “Through her newspaper and club work, she was an activist – a woman before her time, as well as a woman for all seasons.”