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Cropped 1908 str columbia from front starboard quarter
  • Title: Sarah Elizabeth Ray - Steamer Columbia
  • Location: Buffalo, NY
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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 SCOTUS. 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.