Programs > Academic Programs

Academic Seminars


Jim Crow Travel and Rights-Politics in the mid-19th Century American North


Kyle Volk

(Assistant Professor of History, University of Montana, and AAS-National Endowment for the Humanities Long-term Fellow)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010, at 5:00 p.m.
Elmarion Room, Goddard-Daniels House
190 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts

PRÉCIS: This book chapter is part of a larger study of the ideas and practices of minority-rights politics in antebellum America. It explores the social, legal, and political conflicts that developed as black northerners and white abolitionists challenged racial discrimination and segregation aboard railcars, steamboats, and streetcars. It argues that these conflicts were a key place where abolitionists negotiated the power of majoritarian democracy and developed grassroots political tactics to defend the rights of free black northerners. The chapter begins by describing how companies operating public conveyances racially ordered the spaces of travel and analyzes how segregationists and integrationists understood the stakes of that ordering. It then explores the grassroots political tactics, including civil disobedience, common law litigation, and association-building, that abolitionists and black leaders pioneered to secure equal rights to public travel.

NOTE: The paper for this seminar will be precirculated, and is available for download after you register online. Please read the paper in advance.


Refreshments will be provided after the paper, which will be followed by a dutch-treat dinner in Worcester. If you plan to attend, please register by Monday, December 6. After you complete the online registration the paper will be available to download.

The Society regrets that it is unable to make refunds after that date.

Reservations are suggested (and deeply appreciated) for attending the seminar. Reservations are required to attend the supper.