Memphis Streetcar boycott


Memphis Streetcar boycott


Within weeks of the murders, so much of Black Memphis had left town that the streetcar ridership collapsed. Men from the City Railway Co came to Ida B Wells' office, seeking to understand why Black riders had disappeared. Quotes from IBW's book Crusade for Justice, via Mia Bay.
Wells asked them “what they thought was the cause.”

“They had heard that Negroes were afraid of electricity,” she recalled them saying. She pointed out that it had been 6 months since the switch to electric streetcars. “How long since you have observed the change [in ridership]?”

“About six weeks,” they admitted. “Why, it was just six weeks ago that the lynching took place.” “The streetcar company had nothing to do with the lynchings,” replied the City Railway men. “It is owned by Northern capitalists.”

As soon as they left Ida B Wells wrote a piece for the next edition of the Free Press with the news that the economic pressure was being felt. Through the paper and local churches, she encouraged Black Memphis to keep boycotting the streetcars - while folks prepared to leave town for good. 


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Memphis Streetcar boycott,” Daily Suffragist, accessed July 12, 2024,

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