Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War

Philadelphia: 1865.

Price: $6,500.00

Unbound. A small archive consisting of two items, a printed circular letter and a related Autograph Letter Signed by B[enjamin]. P. Hunt. The circular letter [caption title]: *At a meeting held at Concert Hall, on Friday Evening, the 13th instant, the following Resolutions were unanimously adopted...* . Philadelphia, January 17th, 1865. Bifolium printed on two sides. Old folds, ink note by one of the signatories, B.P. Hunt, very near fine [with]: One page Autograph Letter Signed "Bn. P. Hunt" to "Hon. E.R. Hoar" of Concord, Massachusetts, dated 3 February, 1865. Bifolium printed one side. Old folds, else very near fine.

The printed resolution decries the treatment of African-Americans on the streetcars of Philadelphia. They note that they are "opposed to the exclusion of respectable persons from our Passenger Railroad Cars on the ground of complexion" and further "...we have heard with shame and sorrow, the statement that decent women of color have been forced to walk long distances, or accept a standing position on the front platform of these cars, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, while visiting, at our military hospitals, their relatives who have been wounded in the defence of the Country." The resolution proposes changes in regulations to alleviate the situation, and further appoints a committee of 21 (including Hunt) to deliver these resolutions in person to each of the Presidents of the city's railroads. The resolutions are signed in print by various prominent white citizens of Philadelphia, the ink note in Hunt's hand refers to a court case concerning the question.

In the letter to Hoar (Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (1816-1895), Attorney General in the Grant administration and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Judge), Hunt asks advice about a legal decision in a case decide by "your Judge Abbott" concerning precedents for excluding colored citizens from businesses based on the principle of "usage."

Benjamin P. Hunt was Massachusetts-born former pupil of Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Chelmsford Academy who attended Harvard. After graduating he taught school in Philadelphia. Tiring of that he took sail to Jamaica and published an account of his voyage in *The Dial*, which both Emerson and Hawthorne wrote highly complimentary notices of. He later moved to Haiti, where he became interested in race and the condition of the Negro inhabitants, wrote extensively on the subject (and eventually was asked by President Grant to investigate Grant's long cherished objective of annexing that country). His health failing, he returned to Philadelphia. He was tireless in his efforts to integrate the streetcars and was reportedly largely responsible for their eventual integration.

The street car controversy was sparked by the African-American abolitionist William Still, who wrote a letter in 1859 appealing to white citizens to help desegregate the street cars. Despite many initiatives, including ballots (where Philadelphia's citizens voted overwhelmingly to keep the cars segregated), petitions, and proposed legislation, the cars weren't integrated until an 1867 court decision, buoyed by the wave of pro-civil rights legislation in the aftermath of the Civil War.

This circular is rare. *OCLC* locates a single copy of the circular, at the Library Company of Philadelphia.


Item #397929

item image

Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War
Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War
Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War
Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War
Philadelphians Fight Discrimination against Colored Citizens use of the Street Cars during the Civil War