Cover image for Lizzie demands a seat! : Elizabeth Jennings fights for streetcar rights
Title:
Lizzie demands a seat! : Elizabeth Jennings fights for streetcar rights
ISBN:
9781629799391
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm.
Added Author:
Summary:
One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race -- even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court -- where future president Chester Arthur represented her -- and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie's case set a precedent.
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Summary

Summary

In 1854, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race--even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court--where future president Chester Arthur represented her--and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie's case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating book.


Author Notes

Beth Anderson , a former teacher, combines her love of writing with the joys of discovery and learning in her narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books. Visit bethandersonwriter.com.

E.B. Lewis is an award-winning illustrator and fine artist who has illustrated over seventy books for children. He teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Visit eblewis.com.


Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1--3--In 1854, when Lizzie Jennings was forced off a traditionally "whites only" streetcar, she went to court, winning the right for all black passengers to ride in the same car with white people on the Third Avenue Railroad in New York City. Anderson's account of Jennings's early civil rights triumph stresses the teacher and choir director's determination. An afterword explains how this free, educated, and wealthy black woman was uniquely positioned to succeed where an earlier court case had failed, and how the fight continued for 10 more years before all New York street car companies stopped having separate cars for black and white passengers. Set on spreads with full-bleed illustrations, the storytelling is straightforward and direct. Dialogue closely follows contemporary newspaper accounts to enliven the historical moment. The well-chosen language--"She'd been rejected, restricted, and refused by schools, restaurants, and theaters"--is a pleasure to read aloud. Departing from the somber palette he used for Jabari Asim's Preaching to the Chickens, Lewis employs pastel colors, shades of blues, pinks, and purples, and plenty of background yellow to portray the characters and their surroundings. This lightens the story and supports its positive outcome. Shadowy background figures remind careful readers of the larger community that supported Jennings and were affected. Pair with Nikki Giovanni's Rosa Parks for a reminder of how long this struggle continued. VERDICT An important story beautifully told.--Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD


Publisher's Weekly Review

On July 16, 1854, "Lizzie Jenkins was in a hurry. A big hurry. The kind of hurry she couldn't hold back." When a New York streetcar conductor tries to stop her from entering a car reserved for whites, she protests. "Despite being born a 'free black' in a 'free state,' she'd never been treated as equal... Suddenly, late-for-church wasn't as important as late-for-equality." When Jenkins is thrown off the streetcar, shown in a dramatic spread, a white witness steps forward, and Jenkins decides to take her case to court--a risk: "if she failed to win, she could make it worse." But Jenkins, supported by her community, does win, notching the first victory in what would become a 100-year-long battle to end segregation on public transportation. Shimmering jewel-toned watercolors blur and delineate details in Lewis's paintings. Includes an author's note, bibliography, and reading suggestions. Ages 7--10. (Jan.)


Kirkus Review

Just over 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Elizabeth Jennings refused to dismount from a New York City streetcar.In 1854, New York was a so-called free state, and Lizzie Jennings was a freeborn, well-to-do African American woman. Accustomed to being permitted in the better-appointed streetcars reserved for white passengers, Lizzie is first taken aback and then angered when the white conductor tells her she must wait for one emblazoned "Colored People Allowed in This Car." Her refusal to leave leads to a contretemps with the lawand a white witness, whose expression of support bolsters her enough to file an eventual, successful, groundbreaking lawsuit. Anderson's third-person text allows readers under Lizzie's skin as her indignation at injustice mounts. Children will readily recognize both the conductor's capricious cruelty and Lizzie's anger that "being born a free black' in a free state' " does not mean being "treated as equal." Lewis' dappled watercolors depict the action and extend it. A picture of an angry Lizzie thrown to the cobbles, bonnet askew, is shocking; another, of the faces of five white, male jurors floating forbiddingly against a vivid, dark-blue background, underscores the injustice of the legal system. A two-page author's note fleshes out the history, including mentions of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks.Necessary. (bibliography, further reading) (Informational picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

In 1854, a young Black church organist named Elizabeth Lizzie Jennings boarded a horse-drawn streetcar in New York City. The conductor objected, insisting that she wait for another streetcar, one displaying a Colored People Allowed sign. As a crowd of pedestrians gathered, he relented, delivering a stern warning. When Jennings objected to his rudeness, he dragged her across the platform and dropped her to the curb. She boarded the car again, but the conductor hailed a police officer, who forced her off. A passenger gave Jennings his card, offering to be a witness in court. Though similar legal cases had failed, Jennings sued the streetcar company and won the case, inspiring some of her contemporaries to stand up for their rights as well. An informative author's note describes Jennings' family background in the abolitionist movement, her court case, and her place in civil-rights history. Anderson's vivid, well-researched narrative includes dialogue that closely follows accounts of Jennings' experience that appeared in newspapers at the time. Using brighter hues than his usual palette, Lewis creates a series of vibrant, expressive watercolor paintings that transports viewers back in time, while portraying characters as distinct individuals. A memorable picture book introducing a nineteenth-century defender of civil rights.--Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2019 Booklist