Sarah M. Fossett

From Ohio History Central

Sarah Mayrant Fossett was an important advocate for African-American rights in Cincinnati, Ohio during the nineteenth century.

Fossett was born in 1826, in Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known of her early life. By 1854, she had moved to Cincinnati, where she married Peter Fossett, a former slave of President Thomas Jefferson.

The Fossetts became prominent members of Cincinnati's African-American community. They actively assisted runaway blacks on the Underground Railroad. Sarah also helped her husband form the First Baptist Church of Cumminsville in 1870. She also actively assisted various orphanages in Cincinnati.

Perhaps Sarah Fossett's greatest contribution occurred in 1860. One day that year, she attempted to board a streetcar in Cincinnati. The white conductor refused to let her board. Fossett sued the streetcar company. The case resulted in the desegregation of Cincinnati's streetcars at least for African-American women. This ruling illustrates the sexist nature of society in the mid-nineteenth century. African-American women were permitted to ride the cars because of women's supposedly weak nature. African-American men, who were viewed as being much stronger and able to walk longer distances, continued to be banned from the streetcars for several years.

Fossett died in 1906.   

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