On February, 5, 2024 - SEPTA celebrated Black History Month by honoring four African American activists that played a key part in the transportation industry and social change.
The event was held at SEPTA Headquarters on the mezzanine level. The program honored four courageous African American activists who were determined to desegregate public transportation. It highlighted the challenges African Americans encountered while trying to embark or ride on public transportation - as well as the activists’ accomplishments that changed the way we travel today.
Additionally - Justin Gray - son of the late William H. Gray III - spoke about the value of SEPTA and how it gives people access to opportunities - and about his father's legacy of being an agent of change. Other speakers included SEPTA's very own General Manager & CEO Leslie S. Richards, SEPTA's Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer Emmanuella Myrthil, and a performance by singer Ralph Mitchell.
The Four Activists Honored by SEPTA included:
Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827 –1901) In 1854 - Graham insisted on her right to ride on an available New York City streetcar at a time when all such companies were private and most operated segregated cars. The court found in her favor in 1855 - and it led to the eventual desegregation of all New York City transit systems by 1865.
Octavious Valentine Catto (1839 –1871) was an American educator, intellectual, and civil rights activist. Catto On October 10, 1871 fought fearlessly to desegregate Philadelphia's trolley car system. He was shot and in-day violence in Philadelphia - by men who were anti-Reconstruction and had opposed black suffrage - attacked black men to prevent their voting. This statue stands outside City Hall in his honor.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913 –2005) was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks famously fought bus segregation by refusing to give up her seat.
John Mott Drew (1883–1977) was an American entrepreneur and sports executive who was an officer and owner of the Hilldale Club of the Negro Leagues. Drew started out in the transportation business, forming the John M. Drew Bus Line in Darby, Pennsylvania.
In honor of Black History Month - SEPTA will continue to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognizes their central role in shaping our city, region, and nation.