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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 People on the Move Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction The Salisbury Depot What Happened to Plessy? A Way of Travel Railroad Conductor Pullman Porter Carrying Everything Into Town--and Out Locomotive Engineer & Fireman Railroaders behind the Scenes Promoting Good Roads Spencer, an Industrial Community What Happened to the Railroads?
9: Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927
What Happened Next?

What Happened to Plessy?

Transportation has long been a flash point in the struggle for racial equality in America. In 1896, the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision declared racial segregation legal. For the next half century, until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education reversed Plessy, the doctrine of “separate but equal” was the law of the land.

After 1954, segregation remained a common practice. Mass protests against segregated transportation helped create the modern civil rights movement. The Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955-56 showed the power of nonviolent direct action and encouraged other forms of protest against institutionalized racism.

Transportation issues remained at the forefront of the movement when it entered the next stage: making sure that the new laws were being applied. In 1961, integrated groups of activists calling themselves Freedom Riders boarded buses and traveled into the South to see if bus stations were desegregated as ordered. The Freedom Riders were attacked as they traveled, and one of their buses was burned in Alabama. But their efforts pressured the federal government to make states comply with desegregation laws.

Because of these kinds of protests over transportation, laws and social customs began to change throughout the segregated South.

Bus at Anniston, Alabama, 1961
Bus at Anniston, Alabama, 1961
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