Civil Rights

Amtrak apologizes after Sherrilyn Ifill says conductor asked her to give up her train seat

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Sherrilyn Ifill

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill. Photo by Kathy Anderson.

Amtrak has apologized to Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, after she tweeted that a conductor asked her to give up her train seat for other people who would be boarding.

Ifill was traveling from Washington, D.C., to her Baltimore home Friday in a train with no assigned seats when the conductor approached her, she tweeted Friday. The conductor said she had people getting on at other stops and she wanted to give Ifill’s seat to them, Ifill tweeted. The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News and the Associated Press have coverage.

Ifill says she told the conductor she was getting off at the next stop, and the conductor replied, “Please follow me” to a new seat she had found. Ifill, who is black, says she refused.

Ifill says she spoke to the lead conductor along with the conductor who asked her to move, and the junior conductor said she wanted to keep empty seats at the front of the train. The lead conductor apologized, Ifill tweeted.

When Ifill was discussing the matter with the lead conductor, she thought to herself, “Is it 1950?” Ifill tweeted.

Amtrak told the Baltimore Sun the company apologized to Ifill when it reached her Saturday morning. “We should have responded publicly sooner, and we apologized for the incident and our slow response,” spokesman Jason Abrams told the newspaper in an email. “Amtrak is looking into the matter more closely so that we can prevent situations like this going forward.”

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