Digital Screening and Panel Discussion: Sarah Elizabeth Ray, the Rosa Parks of SS Columbia
Tuesday, July 21
7:00 p.m. EST
Join the SS Columbia Project, the Steamship Historical Society of America, and The National Maritime Historical Society for a special digital screening and panel discussion about an important but overlooked event in American civil rights and maritime history.
Ten years before Rosa Parks was removed from a bus, Sarah Elizabeth Ray was removed from a boat, Steamer Columbia. Sarah’s experience (long unrecognized) is now known to have inspired Rosa’s. In June 1945, Sarah was aboard Columbia, the sole African American on a celebratory graduation cruise with her classmates. Sarah was taken off the vessel before the vessel left the Detroit River dock. Michigan law prohibited segregation and discrimination on public conveyances. With the help of the NAACP (and Thurgood Marshall), Sarah filed a law suit which would ultimately end illegal segregation in Michigan. The suit was appealed at every level by the vessel operator, the Bob-lo Excursion Co. before making its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. On Feb 2, 1948, the People of Michigan (and Sarah) prevailed, thus putting an end to discrimination and segregation on the Bob-lo boats. Columbia, built in 1902 and today docked in Buffalo, remains a powerful symbol of how an individual battled injustice and won. It has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a site “Where Women Made History”.
The Zoom event includes a screening of the film Sarah Elizabeth Ray: The Rosa Parks of SS Columbia, followed by a panel discussion moderated by the Detroit Historical Society’s Malika Pryor and featuring filmmaker Aaron Schillinger, author Desiree Cooper, and historian and professor Victoria Wolcott. The event will conclude with an update on the restoration of SS Columbia by SS Columbia Project Board Co-Chair Ian Danic and Executive Director Ann Loeding.
This event is free and open to the public. To register, click here. Click here for full bios and for a detailed schedule of the event. To find out more about the SS Columbia Project, visit their website.