Public Transit Desegregation Timelines: The Catto Years

With Caroline LeCount and other Philadelphia black women and men, Catto work more
aggressively to desegregate Philadelphia’s trolley car system resulting in a state law to end segregated trolleys. Catto, himself, sat in a trolley car all night and eventually attracted a crowd, and brought African Americans one-step closer to achieving desegregated transportation. A meeting was held in Samson Street Hall, June 21, 1866, to protest the treatment of African American women and children and to demand more respect and justice for the African Americans. A speech given by Catto explained the ways in which African Americans have given to America and expressed that they should be given equal rights to transportation, but also equal rights in general. William Still and Catto moved the desgregation debate to Harrisburg to the state legislature. This effort was supported by Pennsylvania politicians, Thaddeus Stephens and William Kelly, as well as the Union League. Pennsylvania opened the streetcars to all in March 1867.