The Story of Owl Cab: A Black-Owned Taxi Company in 1940’s Pittsburgh

Interesting article from 2015 about a Black-owned cab company in 1940’s Pittsburgh that rose up from the jitneys that served the African-American population and neighborhood. [Includes more great photos from the era.]

In an Era of Segregation, Owl Cab Mobilized Black Pittsburgh

“Owl Cab Company was started by former jitney driver Silas Knox because Yellow Cab refused to come to the Hill,” says Kenneth Hawthorne, guest curator of the exhibition Teenie Harris Photographs: Cars.

The history of Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District and its ever-changing social climate are issues with which Hawthorne is intimately familiar. After all, he started his career by working as a mechanic at Hawthorne’s Esso, his father’s service station on Wylie Avenue in the Hill, before eventually going on to become a vice president at Gulf Oil. Owl Cab Company, as well as their competitors and local jitney drivers, all had their cars serviced at Hawthorne’s.

While Yellow Cab’s refusal to provide service to residents of the Hill was just one example of the many ways African Americans were discriminated against during an era of segregation, it also revealed a longstanding problem: the transit gap in black communities. Before Knox established Owl Cab Company in the 1950s, jitneys were a mainstay on Hill District streets. The creation of a black-owned cab company, however, was a major development—not to mention an investment risk for Knox.

Read the rest here.

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