A couple of weeks ago, I posted on STR Columbia (steamer), which is currently moored along the Buffalo River. At the time, a group of supporters was preparing for a live public Zoom! conference that was to get underway in coming days. Not only was this conference centered around preserving the vessel for future generations, it was also intended to showcase a little known historic element that would become a lynchpin of the project – the illegal removal of a young black girl from the boat, which turned out to be a significant civil rights moment in American history. Today, civil rights activist Sarah Elizabeth Ray – the young girl who was removed from Columbia – is referred to as “Detroit’s other Rosa Parks,” and/or “The Rosa Parks of STR Columbia.” The incident predated Rosa Parks’ illegal removal from a bus, a decade later.”
Columbia qualifies as the last remaining excursion steamboat from the turn of century.
For those who missed it (230 people signed up for the live session), there is a YouTube video of the presentation, which gives great insight into the history of the boat, the civil rights significance, and the dream of restoring the boat back to her original beauty (and intended use).
The video features a short film, insightful discussions, and even fascinating views into the interior of the vessel in its current deteriorated state. If you’ve been wondering about this historic vessel that is a likeness of Buffalo’s own Canadiana (now scrapped), this is your chance to get up close and personal with the significant craft.
“This is the last steamboat of her kind in this country.” – Co-Chair of Columbia Project