At the outbreak of the Civil War, New Orleans expanded the city’s streetcar service and, for the use of black patrons, incorporated Star cars into the new routes. Though Star cars could be used by both black and white passengers, regular streetcars were for the sole use of white travellers. As a result of this, segregated streetcars came to represent the elevated position of whites in a racially mixed city, antagonising free people of colour and later the freedmen, freed slaves who were publicly subordinated and inconvenienced by white-only streetcars. The resulting streetcar protests that occurred between 1862 and 1867 in New Orleans were remarkable considering the status of slaves and free people of colour in the preceding antebellum period. Though worlds apart in class, ability, and rights, and encouraged to be so by whites who feared a Haitian style revolt, these two groups united at the end of slavery to overcome streetcar segregation and the subordinate position of blacks it represented. Of the many social and legal segregation stipulations, streetcars had been the ideal vehicle to display white superiority and served as a daily reminder to blacks of their subordinate position in New Orleans society. The success of the streetcar protests was a result of united black resistance, orchestrated and publicised through the media by middle-class free people of colour but with the often violent physical protest of the newly freedmen. These protests also reflect the actions taken by whites, and the motivation behind their actions, in an effort to keep all blacks—regardless of status—in a subordinate position, actions which helped solidify black protest.

Citizenship and all that it entailed was withheld by law from all black inhabitants. Restricted from any form of protest, slaves and free people of colour were regularly arrested for illegal assembly or insubordinate behaviour. Yet by the end of the streetcar protests in 1867, before radical reconstruction had been implemented in the city, streetcars were fully integrated and would remain so until the next century. The success of the streetcar protests has been attributed to a combination of radical republican organisers and ‘Negro’ resentment (Fischer, “Protest” 219-233; Racial Segregation 80-93). However, this neglects the class element of the protest and misses the motivation of whites who resisted integration. This article examines the legal and social position of free people of colour and slaves in white dominated New Orleans before the Civil War. It highlights how the precarious position of middle-class free people of colour compelled them to orchestrate protest against the streetcars in order to be recognised as part of white New Orleans society. It examines the dynamics of middle-class black protest which was constrained to litigation and black newspaper coverage for fear of reflecting white stereotypes. In relation to this it also considers how slaves, who had physically rejected their status in the antebellum period, continued to do so by violently protesting the streetcars as freedmen. Moreover, it weighs the streetcars as a symbol of inequality in the struggle for equality after the war. Both free people of colour and the newly freed slaves joined the Union army ranks, and the streetcar protest united black soldiers in their efforts to gain equal access to public transport. Finally, the social constraints that prevented disruptive protest by the middle classes and laws that prevented slaves from litigation meant that both parties played to their strengths and successfully combined middle-class litigation and passive resistance with the robust physical protest by lower-class blacks and freedmen.

In New Orleans, streetcar segregation, though not outlined in law, was practiced as company policy from the first mule drawn trams in the 1820s. Streetcars were popular, particularly in the hotter seasons, as opposed to the poorly ventilated omnibuses. By 1820 the black population, both free and slave, still outnumbered the white populace. Segregating the early streetcars was a reaction to the white minority status, as it allowed whites to assert their privileged position visually throughout the city. Used by all classes, streetcars facilitated a cheap and safe means of transport for ladies travelling alone, servants with children, and businessmen going to and from work. Some omnibuses excluded black passengers altogether while others allowed black nurses with white children (“A Hint to Omnibus Proprietors”). Star cars, streetcars marked with a black star, were put in place to transport free people of colour and slaves, to whom the omnibuses were closed. However, they were infrequent—usually every third or fourth car—and, unlike streetcars, were not segregated (Mizell-Nelson). Star cars came to represent people of colour in New Orleans society; they were vulnerable to white incursion, only partially and infrequently represented, and while they offered blacks the same transport rights, such rights were marred with inconvenience. Running a business, offering services, and the general functions of existing in an urban environment were made all the more difficult by the presence of the Star cars because of their infrequency and overcrowding. Whites, however, expounded on the merits of their streetcars as comfortable and frequent (“The Horse Cars” 1). Furthermore, while the black population could generally avoid social situations where they would be socially excluded on the basis of colour, the size and climate of the city made streetcars a necessity. It put whites in a very public position of superiority and separated them from blacks who were often their peers in every way except for colour and/or ancestral heritage. Such an arrangement caused friction, and blacks resisted streetcar segregation, either passively passing for white, or violently confronting drivers (Fischer, Segregation 80-93; “Brief Notices” 423).

How whites viewed blacks and their status in New Orleans society was reflected on streetcars, which publicly demonstrated white supremacist policies and the social separation between the races. As the nineteenth century progressed, the influx of large numbers of German and Irish immigrants, alongside migration to the city, led to a white majority when Star cars were re-introduced at the outbreak of the Civil War (U.S. Census Bureau 1860).

The Star car policy demonstrates that integration was perceived as a threat to racial distinctions at a time when white dominance was required over the black slave population. Star cars and white-only streetcars publicly preserved white dominance at the outbreak of the Civil War when the loyalty of the black population was under suspicion.

Prior to the Civil War, New Orleans had grown and thrived in much the same manner as other cities in the south but contained the most affluent group of free blacks in the south (Foner 406-430). The number of French-speaking free blacks had increased as a result of the Haitian revolution. Free blacks were also known as free people of colour, Gens de couleur libre, free mulatto, or creoles of colour and predominantly lived in New Orleans. [1] Just prior to the outbreak of war, the Times Picayune described the distinct position of the free people of colour in Louisiana: “Our free colored population form a distinct class from those elsewhere in the United States. Far from being apathetic to the whites they have followed in their footsteps…the creole colored people…are a sober…and moral class far advanced in education and civilization” (“Hayti and Immigration Thither” 5). The middle-class status of this group, with their aspirations of citizenship, meant that protest against Star cars was focused in the direction of legal challenges and assumptions of accommodation rather than large-scale street protest. The black middle classes pursued acceptance into, rather than conflict with, white society, an exclusive community that was apparent on the streetcars by the white-only policy.

Up until 1860, omnibuses provided the only public transport in New Orleans outside of the New Orleans and Carrollton Street Railway. Debate regarding the need for a city-wide street railway service began in the early 1850s, and in June 1860 the New Orleans City Railroad was chartered to undertake the project (“City Railroad Project” 2). In June 1861, despite the outbreak of the Civil War, the first lines were opened, and it was in anticipation of this line that Star cars were promoted in newspaper advertisements. Historians such as Blaire Kelley have suggested the Star cars were reintroduced in 1862 in an effort to control the increasing population of freed slaves in New Orleans (Kelley 51). However, newspapers clearly report the introduction of the Star cars while New Orleans was under full confederate control in 1861, and slaves had not left the plantations at that point in any significant numbers (“Home Department” 1). There was no obvious increase in the black population in the city that could account for the introduction of the Star cars on the new routes. However, the need to emphasize white authority in a slave society at war was paramount in a city where, unlike the plantations outside the city, the position of free blacks and slaves was not clear. By 1861, slaves in New Orleans could not be manumitted, either by their own purchase or on their master’s request. However, due to its size and large black population, the city offered considerable freedom regardless of the law, and slaves were often in close enough contact with rich masters to emulate their lifestyles (Blassingame 8). This elevated them above the position of the plantation slaves outside the city and reinforced aspirations for equality after the war. The law forbade slaves to gather without permission, except on Sundays and then not with people of colour, though arrests show this was frequently disregarded (“The City” 21 Nov., 2; “The City” 11 Jan., 1; “The City” 24 Aug., 1; “Master and Slave” 2; “Ordered (Drowned)” 1). While this law may have made early protest on streetcars impossible for slaves, the frequent disregard for it shows that slaves were already resisting their position, which they would later protest on the streetcars as freedmen. Furthermore, though many runaway slaves would leave the city, others could simply move to another district and claim to be free. Unless questioned by police or reported, this was often a viable option to set up independently with uncontrolled access to the Star cars and the discontent they cultivated. Arrests of large numbers of slaves from around the city show this was a recurrent issue (“City Intelligence” 1 Sept., 2). Despite the social separation between the educated free black population who would orchestrate the streetcar protests and the city’s slaves, the relationship between working-class free people of colour and slaves was often blurred. The large number of free people of colour who often shared the same professions and streets with slaves provided a cover that slaves could escape to provided they lived quietly and went unchallenged. Yet some slaves refused to run or be constrained by inferior status. The ‘Buck Darkies’ who asserted their independence on city streets irked one newspaper editor into devoting a full article to their behaviour, attire, and demeanour (“Buck Darkies” 3). Though slaves, these extremely well dressed ‘Bucks’ spent their days on street corners in groups, showing no deference to white men or women, smoking cigars, and insulting the dress and appearance of passers-by. Other slaves were arrested for physical attacks on masters, masters’ families, or the police (“City Intelligence” 22 Oct., 2; “City Intelligence” 9 June, 2; “Striking With A Stone” 2; “Execution of a Murderer” 2; “Unlawful Assemblies” 4). Socially middle-class people of colour insisted that they belonged as equals in white society and could not act in a manner that would stereotype them with the lower classes or slaves because of their colour. However, the open resistance of slaves to their inferior status would prove invaluable during the streetcar protests after slavery ended and would provide an aggressive arm to the demonstrations to which middle-class free people of colour would not socially contribute.

The divisions between slaves and free people of colour were not the only disjuncture to overcome as the protest against streetcar segregation progressed. Writing thirty years after the end of slavery, the Marquis Paul de Gournay, who edited the Times Picayune newspaper, highlights the distinct social separation between free blacks who had been granted or bought their freedom through manumission and the black elite who had been free for generations (De Gournay 511-517). These creoles of colour counted blacks amongst their numbers but were generally mulatto, though they often had the appearance of whites. [2] Opposed by whites, whose society they wished to join, these elite people of colour distanced themselves from lower-class blacks and slaves in order to find their place in white society. Though legally bound to slaves by black codes and laws governing slaves and free people of colour, letters from leading white citizens to the governor cite their success in white society. These complaints ranged from black dominance of artisan trades, miscegenation and impudence towards ladies, to opulent displays of wealth that threatened the distinctions between the races (Ingersoll 232). Although the opulence of the free black elite may have made them noteworthy, by 1860 only ten per cent of free blacks in New Orleans were classified as common labourers. Instead they dominated trades such as mechanics, carpenters, shoemakers, barbers, and tailors (Foner 405-430). As their numbers grew so did white resentment, due to fears that white dominance would be blurred by this separate class of people who often appeared white and were of means and education, yet who were classed separately and whose inheritance usually had resulted from illegitimate birth. The streetcars were one way of heightening distinctions between affluent free people of colour and whites.

It was these free people of colour who actively endorsed the Confederacy by offering their services in the Louisiana Native Guard, a militia made up of, and overseen by, free men of colour. Free women of colour also contributed comparably with white middle-class women and in particular received praise, “the thanks of the public” and “gratitude” from white indigent families in New Orleans for their charitable endeavours to the war effort (“Colored Ladies Fair” 2). Pre-Civil War creoles of colour in particular had good reason to see their future aligned to white society and to eradicate colour-based legislation on the streetcars when, as a group, they reflected white society in most other ways. Despite restrictions and the growing limitations put on manumissions prior to the Civil War, they continued to grow in numbers and prosper, and their position in slave society was well maintained. Laura Foner sees this as a result of an affinity between older established white French and Spanish residents and free blacks who shared language, culture, and customs, in contrast to incoming Anglo-Saxon Americans, Irish, and Germans (Foner 406-430). Prosperous creoles of colour owned large sugar plantations and slaves and/or lived in affluent houses in the city, usually on the same street as other successful people of colour but in close proximity to whites. They built churches, socialised together, and intermarried, strengthening their collective wealth and community (Blassingame 11). Creoles of colour were successful enough to motivate white politicians, who were generally fellow planters and businessmen, to push successfully for laws aimed at restricting free blacks in the 1840s and 50s. This economic competition and the need to restrain the push for equality from more affluent blacks were reflected in the streetcar segregation policies. Furthermore, affluent free blacks also needed to distance themselves from colour-based codes because it bound them with lower-class blacks and slaves. In 1856, the Louisiana Supreme Court found laws relating to slaves and free people of colour unconstitutional because, “there is (with the exception of political rights, of certain social privileges, and of the obligation of jury and militia service), all the difference between a free man of color and a slave, that there is between a white man and a slave.” However, dissenting Judge Spofford summed up the role of colour in white New Orleans society: “No white person can be a slave, no colored person can be a citizen” (“Supreme Court of Louisiana” 4). Treating slaves and free blacks in the same manner ensured free blacks were aware of their alignment by white authorities to slaves, rather than other whites, an experience that would unite people of colour after the war in relation to the streetcars.

The introduction of the Star cars on the new lines was at odds with the support that free blacks offered the confederate cause, and it shows how war threatened the elevated position of whites. Between the chartering of the New Orleans City Railroad and the opening of the new lines (1860-1861), the status of free people remained static, until the advent of the Civil War in 1861. White men were suddenly conspicuously absent as they enlisted in large numbers in different confederate regiments (“The City” 21 Nov., 2). Newspaper announcements of troops being shipped out of the city were followed by directions to people of colour to use Star cars rather than regular streetcars (“Home Department” 1). White women were now perceived to be either at the mercy of black impudence or open to new freedoms without white male interference, and there were fears over the scandals that could result. Martha Hodes argues that relationships between black men and white women were not accompanied with the same level of deadly violence as they would be later. Instead they would be accompanied by scandal, as laws against interracial marriage meant that such relationships were prosecuted under fornication and adultery (Hodes 2). Despite the antebellum law forbidding marriage between blacks and whites, there are reports of white women of good standing marrying rich free men of colour (Blassingame 20). Eliza Potter, a free black hairdresser to the upper classes of New Orleans antebellum society, recorded examples of elite free black men marrying elite white women illegally, openly, and without question because of a Paris education, and that “on account of his millions and his father, nothing was said” (Potter 154-155). Scandal had ensued in New Orleans polite society in 1860 when a free musician of colour was found guilty of seducing many of his upper-class white female clients (Blassingame 19). Confederate men may have been willing to leave white women on plantations with black men in the role of slaves, but free men of colour were often educated, wealthy, and sophisticated, with all the trimmings of an urban setting. They neither fitted the stereotypical black role nor white society. By December 1861, legislation was being considered to increase the sentence of white males or females who fornicated with free people of colour, and arrests of black men and white women accused of miscegenation punctuated court records throughout the 1850s (“The Progress of Legislation” 2; “Shameful Business” 3; “Practical Amalgamation” 2; “City Intelligence” 2 Dec., 4). In the emergency of war, Star cars were not just the public subjugation of blacks by whites to maintain racial authority; they were the means to prevent public scandal in the absence of white males. This was achieved by ensuring that close personal proximity was prevented on the streetcars, not only by racial segregation but also by publicly inferring the social inferiority of free blacks because they were unable to travel with whites.

As free creoles of colour began to form militia regiments and home guards, the Star cars appeared to be in opposition to the public media support for the Native Guard. James G. Hollandsworth has argued that the confederate authorities only ever intended the Native Guard as a public relations exercise in the confederate media (Hollandsworth, Native Guards 11). Regardless, their position as a black militia overseen by black officers roused the patriotic public to laud their efforts: “Gallant…they are with us…a fine looking company of our free coloured friends” (“The Free Soldiers of Baton Rouge” 2). New Orleans had a history of armed black regiments who had, in the past, expected levels of equality in return for service. The Star cars were not just continuing the precedent set by the horse cars throughout the antebellum period, they were marking clear lines of segregation on transport in a time of absent white authority and empowered free men of colour.

In 1862, Union troops entered New Orleans and free blacks volunteered while black wealthy upper-class officers continued to lead the Native Guards. The presence of black troops heightened tense segregation policies on streetcars because Union uniforms put blacks in a position of authority in a controlled former confederate city. This made a distinct change from the antebellum period where protest was sporadic and blacks were occasionally armed but not organised in any numbers to have an impact on transport. General Butler ordered that black soldiers in uniform be admitted to streetcars, and such soldiers often levelled their rifles on white drivers who refused black passengers (Blassingame 190). The first black newspaper in the South, the French language L’Union, was opened in 1862 by creoles of colour who primarily spoke to empower the established free community within New Orleans. By September 1862, blacks were entering streetcars, insisting on travelling, and assaulting drivers who tried to remove them. White newspapers complained that such events were becoming more common but also highlighted that the problem lay both in letting whites travel on Star cars and the lack of Star cars compared to previous times (“The Negroes in the Cars” 2).

L’Union’s successor, the New Orleans Tribune, would later consolidate the streetcar movement when it linked black suffrage with equal rights on streetcars. However, until this point masters bought streetcar tickets for slaves, and urban masters were allowed to recover slaves from army camps until 1863 while wayward slaves were imprisoned and flogged in the city (Rothman 85). As such, slaves could play no part in any protest on the streetcars, a situation that would markedly change when they became the freedmen.

Free people of colour continued to be caught up in slave regulations, and their continued protests to military authorities helped bring about emancipation. Under pressure from the free black press and reports of on-going confusion in the policy toward slaves, General Nathanial Banks used the opportunity to suppress slavery in New Orleans (“The Question” 3; “Proclaim Liberty” 2; “The Mechanics” 4). When Banks allowed soldiers in uniform on the cars this included former slaves who joined the Union ranks, and the car protest became a united black issue. However, differences between dark-skinned ex-slaves and lighter-skinned free mulattos were exacerbated rather than resolved by emancipation. A Union abolitionist officer wrote that free blacks, “with all their admirable qualities, have not yet forgotten that they were, themselves, slaveholders” (Berlin 387). In fact, 40% of free black heads of families were slave-holders in Louisiana, and historians such as Ira Berlin claim that the haughty airs of the free blacks were a continuing source of disunity within black ranks (Pressly 81-87; Berlin 390). Black slaves also commented that the distance between black masters and slaves, allowing for free blacks who often purchased relatives, was exactly the same as between white masters and slaves (Schweninger 345-64). Free black slaveholders in Louisiana did not differ in character or method from white slaveholders. In order to move up in society, they had to distance themselves from slaves and lower-class blacks, behaviour that was encouraged by whites in order to avert a slave rebellion led by free people of colour, as had happened in Haiti. [3] Yet, as the New Orleans papers continually reported the arrest of free people of colour charged with harbouring slaves, or free blacks arrested at the illegal assembly of slaves, there was less distance between blacks of the lower classes who were often engaged in the same professions (“City Intelligence” 15 Oct., 2; 14 Nov., 2; 19 Oct., 2; 14 Jan., 2).

Lessening the spectrum between newly-freed slaves and educated, often wealthy, free blacks occurred as a result of the continued white policy of colour segregation such as Star cars. There was good reason for middle-class free blacks to hope that whites of their own social background would admit them to streetcars and extend citizenship in the post war period. White creoles, such as the Marquis de Gournay, noted that among their circle there was praise and perhaps empathy for the free black aristocracy. This may have been in recognition of their status and wealth in society, but also because he identifies them as creoles and acknowledges their relationship to their white creole ‘cousins’ (De Gournay 511-517). De Gournay praises the behaviour of the elite free blacks above those of other classes, including whites, citing their insignificant numbers among crime figures in the city and their sobriety and appetite for education. He also provides insight into the social relationships between higher-class whites and blacks, indicating that they were treated as equals in matters of business and everything that that involved, including shaking hands, inviting them into white offices to sit, and white and black businessmen passing time chatting of business and news. Eliza Potter also agrees that between wealthier upper and middle-class whites and blacks “there is a great deal of sociability” (Potter 159).

Initially influential, wealthy free people of colour lobbied for their own right to vote without inclusion of the lower classes or slaves (Hollandsworth, Native Guards 17-18). However, doubtful over their success with white politicians, including the newly appointed Governor Hahn, free blacks used L’Union to demand universal black suffrage, which consolidated the streetcar movement. Free black fears were well founded. The 1864 Constitution abolished slavery but withheld citizenship and voting rights from all blacks with a vague clause that would allow future whites to decide which, if any, blacks got the vote. The vote, and the streetcars, had come to represent the continued subordinate place, despite class or status, of all of New Orleans’ black communities. The presence of freedmen and their clamour for a place in this occupied, defeated, but still mainly white society, offered an opportunity for all blacks, regardless of previous status, to eliminate the Star cars. Middle-class French-speaking creoles recognised this, and in 1864 the paper was replaced by the Tribune, which was in English and French, indicating the changing tide of black unity. This English-language paper also facilitated addresses to whites outside the black and white Creole community. From the start, both of these newspapers targeted the streetcars as a physical symbol of white repression that displayed the social and political inequalities that blacks experienced.

From 1865 onwards, some streetcars allowed integrated travel, though segregated by a compartment (“The Town Talk” 2). However, the smaller black population of New Orleans meant that the wishes of whites would always be prioritised. General Banks ordered the integration of the streetcars for all blacks in 1865, and for two weeks the Star cars disappeared until once again the rail companies, motivated to appease their more numerous white customers, successfully challenged the order in court (“The Car Question” 3 Sept., 4). Black sources, however, claimed that Banks declined to push the issue as it was perceived as interference with commerce (“The Car Question Again” 2; “Gen. Bank’s Record” 2). The Star car issue festered for another two years, and in April 1867 the Tribune heightened its streetcar campaign and linked it to civil rights. At the same time white conservatives saw white radical republicans as part of the problem with the streetcars, as they “preach homilies on star cars, separate schools and other little matters which, though distinctions, are scarcely differences” (“Race Antagonisms” 6). A month later a “number of coloured” were entering the cars, but the rail companies became alert to legal cases and advised drivers to passively resist by stopping the car until the black person left (“The Star Cars” 4). These ‘sit-ins’ were part of the strategy typical of middle-class free black protest. Behaviour deemed below the genteel standard was often grounds for non-service on many conveyances and played to white stereotypes of lower-class blacks. Though effective in publicising the streetcar protests, this type of dissent lacked the more robust protest of the freedmen who would take to the streets while free blacks appealed to the courts. During the first weekend of May 1867, black men described as the “ruder and more reckless portion of our negro population” began forcing their way onto streetcars as crowds of men and boys gathered and cheered (“The Car Question” 7 May, 2). White newspapers evidently supposed these crowds to be lower-class blacks and used stereotypical slave language to describe the protests. Highlighting class distinctions used on all conveyances regardless of colour, white papers also linked the streetcar protests to integration in schools. This is evidence that whites also saw the cars as a symbol of the social and political inequalities that they wished to maintain in this white elite society. Furthermore, reports suggest that whites saw signs of leadership in this protest but also blamed “vindictive and avaricious adventurers” rather than the self-empowered black lower-class (“Rebels” 2). No doubt these comments were aimed at radical republicans who, whether black or white, supported the streetcar cause. However, this ignores the class element of the protest, which was evident in the preceding years before radical reconstruction began.

As the number of protesters increased and events escalated over the weekend, Mayor Heath was forced to meet the large numbers of blacks who had now congregated on Congo Square in New Orleans, the traditional meeting place for slaves, indicating freedmen were heavily involved (Blassingame 3-5). Heath would still be mindful of the 1866 riot when over two hundred people were injured and killed, and which had changed radically the direction of reconstruction in Louisiana (Hollandsworth, Massacre 3). Furthermore, the regiments in New Orleans contained black soldiers who had shown they would use force to aid New Orleans blacks against white troops (“A Riot” 2). In light of this, summoning troops to dispel the protestors would have been unwise and might have carried political repercussions for Heath’s career from powerful factions in Washington D.C. who wanted reconstruction implemented (Fischer, “Protest” 212-213). Finally, despite calls from the railroad companies, Mayor Heath decided to appeal to the black community for calm until he could settle the matter with railroad representatives (Fischer, “Protest” 212-213). On May 6, 1867, Mayor Heath and General Sheridan, Commander of New Orleans, met the railways and ordered them to integrate. To enforce integration the Police Chief issued orders in the newspapers that passengers, presumably white, were not to eject other passengers on account of colour or they would be arrested (“The Car Question, 8 May 4). Afterwards in New Orleans both blacks and whites by and large accepted integrated streetcars peacefully.

In conclusion, the united protest bolstered black political strength, and many of the middle-class free people of colour would become the leaders of protest on transport segregation later in the century. However, the protests ultimately undermined the separate sphere carved out by free blacks in this white society. When whites deprived the black middle class of the vote, they had denied them their special position above lower-class blacks and some whites. As a result of this, black middle-class commitment to the streetcar protests clearly defined them in opposition to traditional whites and aligned the political future of the entire black community.

Resistance by whites was clearly aimed at preventing miscegenation but was also opposed to empowered black males in uniform. The social and legal divisions between slaves and free blacks in the antebellum period often mirrored those between whites and slaves. That such differences in the status of freedmen and free blacks were overcome is significant in understanding the black communities’ exigency to overcome inequality and the symbolism of the streetcars after the Civil War. The status of free blacks often meant they were restrained by etiquette to seek redress in the courts while the freedmen’s prior status and resistance nurtured in slavery meant they faced no such constraints. In reality, the success of the streetcar protests was a result of united black resistance, orchestrated and publicised through the media by the middle classes but with the often violent physical protest of the lower classes.



[1] Free men/women of colour usually had f.m.c. or f.w.c. affixed after their name.

[2] Creoles were descended from French and Spanish Colonialists.

[3] Free people of colour under Vincent Ogé had revolted against white planters in 1790, sparking the slave revolt which eventually led to independence. See: Fick 76-120.


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“Unlawful Assemblies.” Times Picayune 2 December 1857.


Image credit: “Ticket for New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad Company (the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line, New Orleans), c. 1868, with an engraving of a horse drawn tram” by Jefferson City Rail Road, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.