APRIL 28, 1867
Two years after the Civil War ended, a Black painter named William Nichols took a seat on a “whites-only” streetcar in New Orleans. The driver ordered him off. Nichols refused. The driver tried to drag him off. Nichols went limp, and police arrested him for disturbing the peace.
On the day of his trial, spectators packed the courthouse, only to see the judge dismiss all charges against Nichols, who countersued the driver for assault. In protest, Black passengers flooded the streetcars, which resulted in them halting for hours.
On May 8, the city ordered the cars desegregated. The success in New Orleans paved the way for the desegregation of streetcars in Nashville, Richmond, Charleston and Philadelphia. These protests helped lead to civil rights including the right of equal access to public institutions — until a new wave of white supremacy took place, reinstituting racial segregation in streetcars in New Orleans in 1902.