Joseph Guillaume's Audacious Ride, Part 3 of 3

Stop 3 of 4 in the Streetcar Integration During Reconstruction tour

On May 4, 1867, Guillaume acted. What happened next is open to some debate. According to the New Orleans Times, at 11:30 a.m. Guillaume hailed a “Whites Only” car number 148 on Love Street, now known as Rampart. When the driver refused to stop, Joseph jumped aboard and “coolly took the reigns in his own hands.” Blair Kelley counters that Joseph “fought off a conductor who had tried to eject him, threw the conductor out of the car, and drove off with the vehicle.” Roger Fischer contends that “Guillaume overpowered him, seized the reins, and began to make off with the street car as a trophy of war while the terrified passengers evacuated as best they could.” In a more benign version of the story, the New Orleans Tribune suggested that “the gentleman seized the bridle of the mule to stop him, and the driver whipped the animal to make him go. "

Whatever the story, it was a critical moment. Three days later the Tribune would report that “all the companies had come to the understanding of admitting our citizens into all the cars, without any distinction as to color.” Chief of Police Thomas E. Adams issued an order: “Have no interference with negroes riding in cars of any kind. No passenger, has a right to eject any other passenger no matter what color. If he does so he is liable to arrest for assault or breach of the peace.” Arceneaux notes, “at the order of General Phillip H. Sheridan, in May 1867, all public transportation was integrated, and the ‘star car’ system was ultimately abandoned until the end of Reconstruction in 1877.”

Even then, however, some star cars apparently were still operating. The May 11 Daily Picayune reported, “a group of colored men hailed a car on Carondelet Street last night, and the driver immediately stopped. The party advanced and seeing that it was a star car, told the driver to go ahead, that they concluded not to ride.” Finally, by May 25, the New Orleans Times reported that the star car system had been abolished, although the article, anticipating the future day when segregation would resume, noted, “We imagine that this (racial separation on the streetcars), like all the other grievances of a social character, growing out of our political changes, will be corrected with time, patience and discretion on the part of the people.”

It is unclear what ultimately became of Joseph Guillaume. But for one bright moment, he was a supernova in the star car controversy.

Images

Mule-drawn streetcar of the period on Canal Street at the Henry Clay Statue.

Mule-drawn streetcar of the period on Canal Street at the Henry Clay Statue.

Photo courtesy of Infrogmation. View File Details Page

Kendall's History of New Orleans, 1922, p. 676.

Kendall's History of New Orleans, 1922, p. 676.

View File Details Page

Local Intelligence

Local Intelligence

The New Orleans Times, May 5, 1867, p. 10. View File Details Page

A Pioneer Protest: The New Orleans Streetcar Controversy of 1867

A Pioneer Protest: The New Orleans Streetcar Controversy of 1867

By R. A. Fischer, 1968, in the Journal of Negro History, 53(3), p. 224. View File Details Page

The Cars

The Cars

The New Orleans Tribune, May 5, 1867, p. 4. View File Details Page

Local Intelligence: The Car Question

Local Intelligence: The Car Question

The New Orleans Tribune, May 8, 1867, p. 4. View File Details Page

Concluded Not To Ride

Concluded Not To Ride

The New Orleans Tribune, May 11, 1867, p. 1 View File Details Page

City Cars

City Cars

The New Orleans Times, May 25, 1867, p. 1 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kevin J. Brown, “Joseph Guillaume's Audacious Ride, Part 3 of 3,” New Orleans Historical, accessed May 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/548.
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