Conclusions 1870s: Representation Biographies 1890s: End of an Era 1880s: Repression Home 1860s: Freedom at LastConclusions 1870s: Representation Biographies 1890s: End of an Era 1880s: Repression Home 1860s: Freedom at Last

The 1880s: Railroads and Segregation

Railroad train with porters

This photo shows a "land train," bringing prospective investors to Texas, circa 1915. African-American porters stand on the far right. "Separate but equal" segregation was the law in Texas and other Southern states from the 1880s until segregation was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1950s.. Many jobs were also segregated. The job of porter was considered a black man's job. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives.


Segregation of African-American railroad passengers was a long-standing tradition in the South, despite Emancipation and passage of constitutional amendments related to civil and political rights. In 1871, the wife of Senator Burton was thrown off a moving train when she refused to leave the whites-only coach. Situations like this inspired African-American legislators to join Representative Mayes in attempting to enact laws supporting equal accommodation on trains for African Americans. In the late 1870s, Representative
R. J. Evans of Navasota offered an amendment to a railroad rate bill which, if the amendment had passed, would have made it illegal not to sell African-Americans first-class tickets.

The railroad segregation issue was one of the primary concerns of African-American legislators throughout the 1880s. In 1881, Representative R. J. Moore attached a relevant amendment to one bill after another African-American woman was thrown from a train after standing up for her right to sit where she wanted. Governor John Ireland pleaded with the Colored Men's Convention of 1883 not to press the railroad issue, but they did. Ireland then went to the railroad companies and asked them to provide separate but equal coaches and some complied. However, "separate but equal" was still segregation. In 1889, during the 21st legislative session, Representatives Mayes and Asberry worked tirelessly to end racial segregation in railroad passenger cars. The segregationists had more influence. In 1896, railroad accommodations were the case in point when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized separate-but-equal facilities for whites and African Americans.




Page last modified: August 26, 2011