Jim Crow trains put black passengers at risk

On this day in 1911: In Hamlet a freight train and a passenger train collide head-on, killing seven passengers and injuring 25. The passenger train had been loaded with Durham Sunday school members on an excursion to Charlotte.

“Jim Crow service, using old wooden cars sandwiched between the newer steel ones, [subjected] those in the wooden cars to extreme danger…. ” Jean Bradley Anderson writes in “Durham County.” “In the collision the wooden cars had splintered and compacted like accordions.”

A Charlotte Observer correspondent reported from the scene that “An old railroad man expressed the opinion… that the frail construction of the cars had something to do with the great damage.”

Black leaders would later call for railroad regulations to require either all wood or all steel cars on each train.


3 thoughts on “Jim Crow trains put black passengers at risk”

  1. Seems to be some dispute about the number of deaths. Anderson says 7, and Steve Massengill (“Durham, North Carolina: A Postcard History,” 1997) says 9.

  2. Hello, I located your post while doing some research for an assignment in school, and I’m glad I did. It is interesting, both historically and socially, as it provides clear insight of a time in American history when legislated discrimination was acceptable, as Negro citizens were normally encouraged to use sub-standard and ill-equipped materials and goods. No matter if there were 7 or 9 deaths, the bottom line is, if proper and safe equipment had been provided, the deaths may not have occurred. I found Prof. Brown’s ballad especially moving. Thank you for sharing.

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