My New Biography of Elizabeth Jennings, STREETCAR TO JUSTICE, Tells the Full Story of New York's Rosa Parks for the First Time
Streetcar to Justice is the first biography of Elizabeth Jennings, a black schoolteacher who refused to leave a segregated streetcar in Manhattan in 1854, setting into motion a historic court case in New York City and the first major step in ending segregation in transportation in New York. I have been researching this story for many years. The book was published January 2 by HarperCollins/Greenwillow in New York.
With the publication of Streetcar to Justice, I have achieved my goal of writing Elizabeth Jennings back into history in a proper, thorough, and time-honored way. What she needed was a book, and now she has one.
Many readers have told me the book is an eye-opener, and in more ways than one. The fact that there was a Rosa Parks of New York comes as a surprise to many. Even more jolting to a large number of readers, however, is learning that there were once horse-drawn streetcars in Manhattan designated for "Colored" people and a municipal slave market at Wall Street. Anticipating that the topics of segregation and slavery in the Northern states are little known, I decided, while writing the book, to include context in the form of sidebars and timelines.
Here is a sample of the reviews so far:
Publisher's Weekly (starred review): "A book that belongs in any civil rights library collection."
Kirkus (starred review): "Completely fascinating and unique."
Booklist:“[A] gem of a story.”
School Library Journal: "A superb mentor text. Hearth brings the story of Elizabeth Jennings to vivid life in an eminently readable book."
The Buffalo News: "A fascinating narrative."
The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press/USA Today Network: "The book's extensive bibliography and footnotes are nearly as fascinating as the text itself, introducing the reader to new places and subjects to explore."
Tampa Bay Times: "Elizabeth Jennings has been largely forgotten, but Amy Hill Hearth's book for young readers, Streetcar to Justice, brings the story back....Hearth's book expertly gives young readers wider context for Jennings' story."
The New York Times Book Review, which selected Streetcar to Justice as one of four new, recommended books on women's history for middle grade readers, wrote: "Wrapped up in Hearth's detailing of Jennings's courage is a sobering recognition that the shame of our nation's history was widespread...Hearth reminds us that Jennings was not only blocked from riding in a streetcar, she also faced institutionalized obstacles."
A Little Background...
I began my career in 1981 as a newspaper reporter. In 1991, I met and interviewed a pair of then-unknown and reclusive centenarian sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany, the daughters of a man born into slavery in the South. I wrote a feature story about the sisters for The New York Times. A book publisher read my story and contacted me, asking if I would consider writing a book. The Delany Sisters and I worked together for almost two years to create the book, an oral history which we called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years. The book was a blockbuster bestseller. It was adapted to the Broadway stage and for an award-winning film.
The Delany Sisters are both gone now but their legacy lives on. The sisters left me in charge of the book and thus I am the go-to person when it comes to the book, photographs, their story, and their place in history. If you can't find my original New York Times story on the Delany Sisters, let me know and I will send it to you. If you have a question, just ask. More information about the Delany Sisters can be found on this site by clicking "Books" in the main menu, then "Having Our Say." Again, any questions, feel free to ask!
My other nonfiction books include the story of a pair of married Holocaust survivors who worked for the Underground during World War Two and a rare oral history of a female Native American Elder named Strong Medicine.
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