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Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Sarah Elizabeth Ray 1921 - 2006

This biography was originally released on August 15, 2022 as a part of our on going series titled: Vibrant Lives. Vibrant Stories.
Written by Madison Matthews on the Staff of The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission

Sarah Elizabeth Ray was born in 1921 in Wauhatchie, Tennessee to a family of thirteen. She then moved to Detroit and attended night school so she could be admitted into Wayne State University. Ray spent one year at Wayne and then she went to work for the Detroit Ordinance where she was able to attend secretarial school. Where she graduated from Commerce High School in 1945. During her time in Detroit, she married her first husband at twenty years old.

Once Ray graduated from secretarial school, Ray went on a trip with a few of her friends traveling on a ferrie by the Bob-Lo Excursion Company. When she got on the boat, she was denied an entrance due to her race. However, she refused to leave until someone told her she would be forcibly removed, so she decided to leave the boat. After she was forced to leave, she made a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. So, the Bob-Lo Excursion Company was charged by the Recorder’s Court of Detroit for discrimination against Ray.

Ray then divorced her first husband and married her second husband, Raphael Haskell and they opened the Action House which was a community center for Black youth in Detroit to help maintain racial balance within the community. During Ray’s time at the Action House, she became the director of teaching, communications, and problem solving. As well as hosting a countless amount of fundraisers to keep the Action House open. Ray was also actively engaged in politics drawing attention to the issues impacting the community. 


Then in 2020, Aaron Schllinger, a filmmaker and Desiree Cooper an author, made a documentary based on the events throughout Ray’s life. The documentary “Detroit's Other Rosa Parks' ' was a way to show black women that they are strong enough to be civil rights leaders and fight for racial equality. 


Sadly in 2006, Sarah Elizabeth Raydied, seven years after her husband's death. 

Thank you to our sources:

We want to give a special thanks to The Sarah E. Ray Project, Wikipedia, and Bridge Detroit for providing the information for this story. Further readings on Sarah Elizabeth Ray are available on their websites.

If you have additional resources about Sarah Elizabeth Ray, please email us to let us know!

Do you have an idea of who we should include in our series?

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