Museum Hosts Author for Black History Month

KINGSTON – The Hudson River Maritime Museum is pleased to announce the upcoming lecture “The World of Elizabeth Jennings,” by Jerry Mikorenda,held virtually on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 7:00 PM, in conjunction with Black History Month.

For many, the civil rights movement began with Rosa Parks’ brave stand against segregation in 1954. However, few people realize that the right for African Americans to even ride in streetcars was earned a hundred years before that in a landmark civil rights case here in New York State.

In 1854, traveling was full of danger. Omnibus accidents were commonplace. Pedestrians were regularly attacked by the Five Points’ gangs. Rival police forces watched and argued over who should help. None of this was on Elizabeth Jennings’ mind as she climbed the platform onto the Chatham Street horsecar.

But her destination and that of the country took a sudden turn when the conductor told her to wait for the next car because it had “her people” in it. When she refused to leave the bus, she was assaulted by the conductor aided by a NYC policeman. Elizabeth Jennings fought for the right to ride New York City horse trolleys, with future president Chester A. Arthur as her defense lawyer.

Historian Jerry Mikorenda breathes life into this little-known struggle with “The World of Elizabeth Jennings,” based on his book, America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights (Rowman& Littlefield). Using rare period photos and lithographs, the author recreates Jennings’ world by exploring the sights and people of old New York as the momentous battle with the Third Avenue Railroad unfolded. The freedoms Elizabeth Jennings fought for – and won – are the underpinning of the civil and gender rights movements that are still a battlefront today. There are rare moments when we can look in the mirror of history and see our own time. America’s First Freedom Rider shows those times are not unlike our own.

Jerry Mikorenda’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Herald, The Gotham Center History Blog, and the 2010 Encyclopedia of New York City. His biography America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights was published in 2020. His historical novel, The Whaler’s Daughter was published by Regal House in July 2021.

Tickets can be purchased for the general public and free for Hudson River Maritime Museum members. To register, visit www.hrmm.org/lecture-series.

About the Follow the River Lecture Series
For more than a decade the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s “Follow the River Lecture Series” has hosted historians, authors, and maritime experts for engaging illustrated talks on a variety of regional history and maritime subjects. In recent years, many of the lectures have also been recorded and are available on YouTube. For more information about upcoming lectures and to access recordings of past lectures, visit www.hrmm.org/lecture-series.

The Hudson River Maritime Museum is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries and related communities. In addition to extensive collections documenting maritime transportation, industry, recreation, and natural science, the museum offers classes and programs at its Wooden Boat School, Sailing and Rowing School, and aboard its floating classroom, Solaris. The museum is located along the historic Rondout waterfront in downtown Kingston.

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