​​​COMTO's National Scholarship Program supports our strategic goal of ensuring the continuing legacy of minorities in transportation. COMTO awards $100,000 annually in national academic scholarships to minority graduate and undergraduate students from across the country. Scholarship awardees are represented in all academic backgrounds and pursuing various careers in the transportation industry. 

COMTO Chapters collectively award close to $500,000 annually in academic scholarships to local applicants. 

​Click here for available scholarships and requirement

Transportation Protests: 1841 to 1992

National Scholarship Timeline & Application

The Oregon/SW Washington local chapter has collected over 800 books for the Portland area Children's Book Bank Since starting this campaign in 2015... Please help continue this effort by donating year round!​  All children's books are welcome, culturally diverse books highly desired. 

​African-American Female Flight Crew Make History

DRIVING WHILE BLACK is a dark comedy, rooted deeply in reality... but not a reality that everybody is familiar with. Dimitri delivers Pizzas for a living - but as a young black man he is faced with "extra" challenges while navigating the city. The film explores the reasons why so many black men have concerns of unfair treatment, especially while driving. We get to see the psychology behind Dimitri's attitude towards the police, through piercing flashbacks to his prior experiences with the cops - from childhood to present day, the cops have always had their eye on him. We will follow Dimitri on his path to his dream job as a Hollywood tour guide - and the many trials and tribulations he has to overcome just to get to the interview. It's an engaging and often emotional journey as sometimes things just aren't fair. But at its heart it is a comedy full of fun twists and turns. Anyone who has ever driven while black, (or knows someone who has) will laugh throughout - and it might just change an opinion or two— Director Paul Sapiano

National Scholarship requirements and available scholarships coming soon. Some scholarships may be awarded twice.

Books are most effective when they are relevant to children’s lives, but our current inventory of culturally diverse books is not nearly sufficient to meet the need of the wide diversity of children and families we serve. To bridge the gap between the need for culturally diverse books and the lack of availability, we are launching “A Story Like Mine.” Your support of this project helps us make more culturally diverse books available for all of the children we serve. 

Article: "The Car and Jim Crow"

​​​​​Giving Back

1884: IDA B. WELLS

On May 4, 1884, anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells was asked by the conductor to move from her seat in the ladies’ car to the front of the train into the smoking car. She refused and was ordered to get off the train. Again, she refused to leave her seat that she paid for as a customer. Wells was then forcefully removed from the train and, when the situation ended, the other passengers—all whites—applauded. When Wells returned to Memphis, she immediately hired an attorney to sue the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company. She won her case in the local circuit courts, but the railroad company appealed to the Supreme Court of Tennessee, and it reversed the lower court’s ruling.
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Driving While Black: The Car and Race Relations in Modern America by Thomas J. Sugrue


On April 17, 1863, months after San Francisco’s horse-powered street car companies during the Civil War dispatched their street cars (with orders to only accept white passengers), African American citizens began to directly challenge this discrimination. On April 17, 1863, Charlotte Brown, a young African American woman from a prominent family, boarded a street car and was forced off. Determined to assert her rights, Ms. Brown boarded street cars twice more and twice more was ejected by the year’s end. Each time she began a legal suit against the company. In May 1863, William Bowen, an African American, was stopped from boarding a street car. He brought a civil suit and a criminal assault suit. Their legal actions came after the African American community’s successful campaign to remove the state’s ban on court testimony by African Americans. Lifting this ban opened the legal system to challenges by African American men and women in the state. Mary Ellen Pleasant, a longtime foe of segregation and leading supporter of John Brown, brought suit against SF street car companies–when she was ejected in 1866–and after two years of court battles the lines were desegregated. (Thanks to William Loren Katz for this story.)

A Story Like Mine

Looking ahead 2019


On October 30, 1870, three men outside the Quinn Chapel in Louisville, Kentucky, made their way toward the trolley stand at Tenth and Walnut on the Central Passenger line. When the trolley stopped, each climbed aboard the near-empty car, dropped a coin in the fare box and took a seat.

It would have been a routine occurrence—three men catching a ride home after church on a Sunday afternoon—had the passengers been white residents of Louisville. But they were African American. And for black city dwellers, riding a trolley was no ordinary act. It was a challenge to the entire social order.
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On July 16, 1854, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a 24-year-old schoolteacher fatefully waited for the bus in New York City. Some buses bore large “Colored Persons Allowed” signs, while all other buses were governed by a rather arbitrary system of passenger choice. When Jennings opted for a bus without the “Colored Persons Allowed” sign, the conductor told her to get off. When she insisted on her right to stay, he took hold of her by force to expel her.
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Two pilots made history on Alaska Airlines on May 13, 2018. Two African-American females, Captain Tara Wright and First Officer Mallory Cave, together piloted a flight. The flight was made from San Francisco to Portland on Alaska Airlines on May 13. This is the first time ever, when all-black female flight crew piloted for Alaska Airlines.

Upon boarding, while waiting for the plane to take off, Captain Tara Wright made an announcement to flying passengers. “You’re sharing a pretty interesting piece of Alaska Airlines’ history this morning,” she said. One of the passengers filmed it and posted it on social media. Not long after, the video went viral.


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Date: November 11-15, 2019 

A Look Back in History


On June 7, 1892 Homer Plessy bought a first class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white passengers. This act was planned with the help of the Comite des Citoyens and the railroad company, which had opposed the law on the grounds that it would require the purchase of more rail cars. The hope was to bring a case to court that would allow African-Americans to ride wherever they pleased. When Plessy was ordered to leave, he disobeyed, was thrown off the train, arrested, and thrown in jail. He was charged with violating the Louisiana segregation statute of 1890. The Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that the Louisiana law did not violate the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments ushering in the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” and Jim Crow Laws.
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In 1841, Frederick Douglass and his friend James N. Buffum entered a train car reserved for white passengers in Lynn, MA. When the conductor ordered them to leave the car, they refused. Douglass’ and Buffum’s actions led to similar incidents on the Eastern Railroad. Widespread organizing led Congress to grant equal rights to Black citizens in public accommodations with the Civil Rights Act of 1875. However, the Supreme Court overturned this victory in 1883, declaring it unconstitutional.

For blacks, as well as for whites, cars had real practical value--as a means of getting to work, of travelling, of visiting family and friends. But cars had other, deeper meanings for many African Americans. Perhaps most importantly, they helped blacks to escape the insults of Jim Crow.

​From the late nineteenth century through the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, American blacks faced some of the harshest indignities of legal segregation on buses, streetcars, and trains. In the South, black patrons at bus and train stations were cordoned off into separate waiting rooms, with separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, and (when they were provided to blacks at all) separate concession stands. On trains, they were confined to separate, inferior Jim Crow cars. In railroad dining cars, a curtain separated black passengers from whites. On urban public transportation, black and white passengers were separate and unequal. Black passengers were required to sit at the back of buses and trolleys--and to give up their seats to whites on demand. Black passengers who challenged Jim Crow on public transportation systems faced insult, personal injury, arrest, and even death at the hands of angry whites.

The car provided southern blacks a way to subvert Jim Crow. As Gunnar Myrdal noted in his exhaustive study of black America published in 1944, "the coming of the cheap automobile has meant for Southern Negroes, who can afford one, a partial emancipation from Jim Crowism." Blacks who could afford to travel by car did so as a way of resisting the everyday racial segregation of buses, trolleys, and trains, for as one observer noted, "Race is most completely ignored on the public highway.... Effective equality seems to come at about twenty-five miles an hour or above." In 1936, sociologist Arthur Raper, who studied race relations in rural Georgia, noted that the "opportunities provided by the automobile provide a basis for a new mobility for whites as well as Negroes, based upon personal standards rather than upon community mores--upon which the individual wants to do rather than what the community does not want him to do." Driving gave southern blacks a degree of freedom that they did not have on public transportation or in most public places. 
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