Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-03-21 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"Like Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Jennings refused to get off a streetcar, but this was 1854. Elizabeth's lawyer was Chester Arthur, future President.

The background of Elizabeth's family, the Black community in New York, and well-known anti-slavery activists like Horace Greeley and Frederick Douglass, who publicised Elizabeth's story and trial which resulted in court affirmation of the right of Blacks to use public transportation, are well documented. Many illustrations, copies of period photographs and documents, enhance the book. Extensive endnotes, bibliography, suggested additional reading and internet sources would be helpful to anyone interested in or writing about the mid-nineteenth century era.

Elizabeth herself contributed more than that one successful lawsuit; she was an accomplished musician, unusually well educated (even among white females) for her time, was active in civic and religious organizations, operated a free lending library in her home, and started the first free kindergarten for Black children in New York City--and that when kindergarten was still a fairly new idea.
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" Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss. " said.

" I'm glad to learn about Elizabeth Jennings and her lawsuit against the New York streetcar company that forcibly and violently cast her off of a streetcar in 1854. Sadly, the writing is dry and the story of her experience is overwhelmed by related historical information. I don't know if kids will pick this up. " said.

"I appreciate learning more about historical figures lost to time. I give credit that I'm reading an uncorrected proof, so the grammatical errors and blank captions are understandable. But I'm baffled by the dry writing, wasted space, and the 38 pages at the end that are either bibliography or completely blank. This is meant for children, but they will be really bored. The historical facts could have been worked into the narrative to make it more engaging and less choppy. It reads like a book report of a textbook. I would want more for my students and children." said.

"I received this through Edelweiss.

This tells the story of basically unknown Elizabeth Jennings, an African American women, who challenged unfair laws in the late 1800s. When Jennings was violently forced off of a streetcar for being African American, she fought back legally, in hopes of changing the law and fighting for equality. This early equality fighter challenged her time and even though she slipped through the public's knowledge, her actions helped those that came after her.

I think this was an interesting historical figure and I am glad she has been brought to light. Most of this novel felt like it was written for adults/educators, instead of being written for children. I am glad this book exists, but it was rather dry.
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"Before there was Rosa Parks in Alabama, there was Elizabeth Jennings in New York City. In 1854 Elizabeth wanted to get to church where she was accompanist for the choir. At the time there was a very convoluted system of which streetcars African Americans could ride and when, however there were also exceptions to the rules. Elizabeth tried to capitalize on the exceptions but was literally thrown off the streetcar she tried to board. Thus starts a legal fight to gain rights to board streetcars in New York City. This interesting book includes many photos, drawings and use of primary sources.
Not only was Elizabeth an African American but also a woman. Extensive notes, a bibliography, index, and illustration credits make this not only a fascinating read but a valuable look at life during this period of time in New York City and the country as a whole.
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"E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

One hundred years before Rosa Parks' experiences with segregated transportation, Elizabeth Jennings fought her own battle with the segregated streetcars in New York City. While black men and women were free in many parts of the north at this time, there was still a lot of fear because of the practice of slavery in the south. Jennings was a "respectable woman" who attempted to ride a street car to her church with a friend. At the time, the practice was that blacks could ride the "white" streetcars at the discretion of the conductor. If other riders complained, the person would have to take a "Jim Crow" car, which might not have as direct a route. In Jennings' case, there were no riders who complained, but the conductor did not want to let her on. When Jennings voiced her complaints and demanded to be allowed to ride, the conductor drove her to a police station to have her arrested. Her case went to court, where she was defended by the future president Grover Cleveland, who was a new lawyer at the time. This very obscure bit of history was very thoroughly researched by the author, the many sources used are listed in a bibliography and have footnotes. Some of the newspaper articles are included alongside the text. The afterword on how Hearth came to investigate this case is interesting as well.
Strengths: This was just long enough to cover the pertinent information while still being interesting and compelling. Sometimes, middle grade nonfiction gets to be too involved to keep readers' interest. Hearth gives a good background of what life was like for different groups of people at the time. I really enjoyed this one, and think it is important for young readers to understand what life was like in the past. If I polled my students, I would guess that most of them are of the opinion that ALL black people in 1854 were slaves.
Weaknesses: The cover of this is not great, and I might want to take a look at a print copy to see how the pages are set up before purchasing.
What I really think: We need a lot more interesting, narrative nonfiction about topics like this!
" said.

" Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss. " said.

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