Few people stop to take pictures at Elizabeth Jennings Place near City Hall, but writer Jerry Mikorenda knows how special this spot - and Elilzabeth Jennings - are.
Mikorenda was originally researching trolley cars when he learned about Jennings and decided to tell her story instead.
"In July of 1854, she went to get on a horse cart to go to church with a friend. The conductor threw her off rather roughly. She was laying on the ground. She got back up and got back on. A policeman accosted her as well, and she was thrown off a second time. And then she sued," Mikorenda says.
A 24-year-old lawyer named Chester Arthur - the future president - represented Jennings. The judge awarded her $250 and handed down an historic ruling.
"He said that there is no reason, according to any state statutes, that African-Americans couldn't ride on any public conveyance," Mikorenda says. "At that time, that's steam ships, ferries, horse cars."
The next day, the Third Avenue line was desegregated. Within a decade, all of New York's public transit services were fully desegregated.
This was 101 years before Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger set in motion the modern Civil Rights movement.
While the story of Rosa Parks is now cemented in American history, a sign at Park Row, near where Elizabeth Jennings was thrown off that street car, is one of the few honors for Jennings. Famous in her lifetime, her story has been mostly lost to history, in part because her relatives died young and were unable to maintain her legacy.
But a monument in New York is planned. Until then, Mikorenda's new book, published in December, tells the story of her achievement. The title says it all: America's First Freedom Rider.