"THE CHAIN OF THE SLAVE WAS BROKEN BUT NOT TAKEN OFF… SO LONG AS THE LAW DEGRADES A MAN, HIS NEIGHBOR WILL DEGRADE HIM": RARE FIRST EDITION OF A MAJOR EARLY RECONSTRUCTION WORK, WHY COLORED PEOPLE IN PHILADELPHIA ARE EXCLUDED FROM THE STREET CARS, 1866, IN FRAGILE ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
(KELLEY, William D.) (HUNT, Benjamin P.). Why Colored People in Philadelphia Are Excluded from the Street Cars. Philadelphia: Merrihew & Son, 1866. Slim octavo, original light green printed wrappers, original stitching; pp.(1-3) 4-27 (1). Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition, anonymously issued, of a core Reconstruction work documenting African Americans' ownership of "the meaning and conditions of freedom," opposing the policies and violence aimed at ejecting them from streetcars, rare in original wrappers.
This highly elusive 1866 work appeared the same year Congress overrode President Johnson's veto of the Civil Rights Act and submitted the 14th Amendment to the states for ratification, leading to its passage in 1868. It is notably one of the earliest works to document African Americans' post-Civil War fight for their rights against embedded racism that would lead to the failure of Reconstruction. As historian Eric Foner notes: "the issues central to Reconstruction are as old as the American republic, and as contemporary as the inequalities that still afflict our society" (Reconstruction, xxv). Why Colored People shows, in many ways, how black opposition to the policies and politics denying their access to streetcars became "a way to negotiate the meaning and conditions of freedom" (Zylstra in Technology and Culture V.52:4, 681). In the words of its anonymous author, this is a work that records how "the chain of the slave was broken but not taken off; and any degree of civil disability under which an emancipated slave is left, is just so much slavery left. It not only restrains his movement both of progress and self-defense, but it keeps alive the spirit of oppression… so long as the law degrades a man, his neighbor will degrade him."
"No sooner did railway companies put tracks and cars on the streets of Philadelphia in 1833 than the white owners and managers created policies that excluded African Americans… by racially segregating the space inside the cars the streetcar companies did more than separate black and white bodies; they spatially claimed the rights to modern transportation for whites… [and] separated blacks from fundamental rights provided to all citizens" (Zylstra, 682-86). "In January 1865 the issue of segregated transport became a national cause célèbre when Robert Smalls, a black war hero [and later U.S. congressman] was ejected from a Philadelphia streetcar and forced to walk several miles to the navy yard where the CSS Planter, the ship he had spirited from Charleston harbor nearly three years earlier, was undergoing repairs" (Foner, 28). When the Philadelphia black community and its representatives, identified here as the Committee, witnessed the increasingly "violent measures that conductors and drivers used to prevent blacks from entering the streetcars' white space, it created as much public and legal controversy as possible. Between 1861 and 1867 blacks who had been forcibly removed from streetcars brought 13 separate suits against companies or their conductors. Nine of these were criminal cases, and four were tried in civil courts. Philadelphia grand juries rejected all but two of the civil suits" (Zylstra, 696-7). While "New York City, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Cleveland all desegregated their streetcars during the war… integration did not come to Philadelphia transport until 1867" (Foner, 28). Variously attributed to white abolitionist William D. Kelley, a Radical Republican leader who represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress from 1861-1890, or to white abolitionist Benjamin P. Hunt, who authored a later Report of the Committee Appointed for the Purpose of Securing to Colored People in Philadelphia the Right to the Use of Street Cars. Blockson 4375. Not in Work.
Text very fresh, mere trace of soiling to original wrappers. An exceptional copy in fine condition.