19th century postcard depicting Baltimore Harbor, with the steamboat Chester in the center of the image. Collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
On this day, May 31, in 1872, a Chesapeake steamboat was the object of one of the earliest pre-Jim Crow cases in Maryland. Josephine Carr, an African-American school teacher from
Kent County, sued the steamboat Chester for an assault. The incident
had taken place on May 14, when Carr sat in the steamboat’s main cabin- a space reserved for white passengers. When Carr refused to
move, the captain and crew dragged her to the black-only forward cabin, where Carr declined to wait. Instead, she moved to the bow, where she stood until the Chester reached Chestertown and Carr disembarked. She would later file a libel suit against the Chester for her mistreatment.
Carr won her landmark case, and was awarded $25 damages. Carr’s case was one of several
in which 19th century courts ruled in favor of blacks on
transportation accommodations- a precursor to many such standoffs, which Rosa Parks would someday make famous.