By Jon King /

An event next week will honor a largely forgotten civil rights pioneer from Michigan.

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the Howell Carnegie District Library, in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Livingston County and the Livingston Diversity Council, will host a virtual presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Sarah E. Ray Project will feature Desiree Cooper and Aaron Schillinger and be held on Monday, January 17th from 6:30pm - 8pm.

Ray has long been considered a civil rights pioneer, on par with the much more publicized legacy of Rosa Parks. Like Parks, Sarah Elizabeth Ray was denied a seat on public transportation because of racial segregation, although her story took place nearly ten years before Parks. In 1945, Ray, a 24-year-old African American secretary, tried to join her classmates from secretarial school on the Boblo boat SS Columbia, but was turned away because of her race.

Ray fought that decision, eventually winning in the U.S. Supreme Court, where she was represented by famed NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who himself would one day be a Supreme Court justice. Many scholars argue that ruling paved the way for the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that began the dismantling of legal segregation.

Presenting the virtual event will be Desiree Cooper, 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow, Pulitzer Prize nominee, former attorney, and 2017 Michigan Notable Book author, and Aaron Schillinger, the director of Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale. Attendees will learn more about Sarah E. Ray, referred to as Detroit's Other Rosa Parks, and the efforts of The Sara E. Ray Project to save her legacy from obscurity.

Registration is required to receive the virtual event's Zoom meeting link and password; sign up on the Library's website at: