The SS Columbia, America’s oldest surviving passenger steamer, was built in Toledo in 1902 and served as a Boblo boat, ferrying crowds of people from Detroit to the Boblo Island amusement park, for ninety years. Now, the SS Columbia calls New York Home. Currently docked at Silo City on the Buffalo River, this historic steamer awaits restoration and a transformation into a mobile, waterfront cultural space. On May 5th, join SS Columbia Project Co-Chair Ian Danic and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Desiree Cooper for a virtual exploration of the ship and its history, with a special focus on its ties to the Civil Rights movement.

SS Columbia bridge

All Aboard the SS Columbia

In this talk:

  • Take a virtual tour of the historic vessel built in 1902
  • Discover what the steamer was like in the heyday of steamer passenger travel
  • Find out where the SS Columbia is now and learn about efforts to restore the ship
  • Hear the story of Sarah Elizbeth Ray, “the Rosa Parks of the SS Columbia” and hear from Desiree Cooper, a Pulitzer prize nominated journalist who has been researching Sarah Elizabeth Ray

In this virtual talk, guests will hear the story of Columbia, reflect on the important civil rights history of the boat, and see an onboard tour of the vessel. Along with the history of the boat, you will also learn the story of Sarah Elizabeth Ray. When Ray boarded Steamer Columbia for a graduation cruise on the Detroit River in June 1945, little did she know that her actions would one day transform Michigan and set the stage for the Civil Rights era. Sarah was removed from the vessel owing only to the color of her skin, even though discrimination and segregation were illegal in Michigan. The company operating the vessel appeared to be breaking Michigan law.  With the help of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, a lawsuit and went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. A decade before Rosa Parks and the bus, Sarah set the stage for and inspired the Rosa Parks circle. 

You can learn more about efforts to restore the Columbia and show your support on the project’s website here!

Tickets to this virtual talk are just $10, or free if you are an Untapped New York Insider! You can gain access to unlimited free virtual events per month and unlock a video archive of 100+ past virtual experiences as an Untapped New York Insider starting at $10/month. Already an Insider? Register here! If you can’t make it live, register for this event and we will send you a link to the recording once it airs!

Passengers boarding the SS Columbia

All Aboard the SS Columbia