Riding Jane Crow: African American Women on the American Railroad

Univ. of Illinois. Jun. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780252086595. pap. $22.95. HIST
Thaggert (English, SUNY Buffalo; Images of Black Modernism) compellingly studies Black women’s train travel and work in 19th- and early 20th-century United States. She introduces the topic with a contemporary event: in 2015, a book club of Black women boarded a Napa Valley wine-tasting train to enjoy food and drinks on a winding route. They were directed to the “back of the train,” and a short time later they were led off the train to police waiting on the platform, having been accused by staff of “disturbing passengers.” The group sued the train company and won, with staff admitting they had lied about the passengers. Thaggert’s powerful book vividly tells other stories that are missing from standard histories of the railroad. Her fascinating hidden history of gender and race is based on diaries of Black female passengers, court transcripts, and the archives of the Pullman Company maids, illuminating the discrimination Black women faced while traveling and working on trains.
VERDICT This extremely well written scholarly work addresses the fact that much of the history of Black Americans has been tied to their inability to freely move about the nation.
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