On September 18,1884, at the District Court of the United States in and for the Maryland District the Stewart sisters filed Libel charges against the owners of the steamer "Sue" charging that:

(The following taken from the actual court records)

First. That the said steamer was on August 15, 1884, and for a long time before and thereafter and now and during the time hereinafter stated engaged in the business of carrying freight and passengers as a common carrier for hire between Baltimore City and Washington and landings on the Potomac river.

Second. That on August 15 "84, said Steamer being about to make one of her regular trips between said places leaving Baltimore at 5 M on said day said libelant Mary M. Johnson went on board said Steamer at Baltimore to take passage to Kinsail [sic] on the Potomac River and bought from the clerk of said Steamer who was the proper officer thereof in that behalf a first class passenger ticket to said landing and return and paid therefor the sum of three dollars: That the sleeping accommodations of said Steamer for first class tickets consisted of state rooms for which extra charge was made and a lower cabin provided with bunks and bed clothes for which no extra charge was made.

Third. That said libelant desired to occupy one of said bunks for the night but although many of them were unoccupied said libelant was prevented from doing so by the chambermaid of the Steamer who by direction of the master thereof informed said libelant that she could not occupy said cabin or a bunk therein and said libelant was forced to submit to this and to pass the night in the upper saloon which was provided only with seats.

Fourth. That said libelant was by character, deportment, dress, and cleanliness fit to be entitled and was entitled to all the privileges of said first class ticket and that the only reason assigned for excluding her from the sleeping provision made for all 1st class passengers was as stated by those managing said Steamer that said libelant was a person of color and therefor could not be allowed to occupy or use said cabin nor to sleep in any bunk therein.

Fifth. That by said exclusion from said sleeping apartment said libelant was injured and damaged in body by loss of rest and wounded in feeling and made sick.

Sixth. That on September 2 "84 said libelant took passage on said steamer at said landing to return to Baltimore on said ticket as by the terms thereof she was entitled to do and was again compelled by those managing the Steamer to pass the night in upper saloon and was by them excluded from the sleeping accommodations of said vessel allotted to 1st class passengers whereby libelant was injured in body by cold and loss of rest and was made sick and otherwise damaged and this altho [sic] libelant was fit as in the fourth article stated to enjoy said accommodations and said exclusion was wholly because said libelant was a person of color.

Seventh. All which acts in so excluding said libelant were contrary to the duty of those managing the Steamer as a common carrier of passengers by water and intended to defraud and injure said libelant in the sum of five hundred dollars.

Eighth. That all said acts were within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of this Court. Therefor libelant prays process in Rem against said Steamer her tackle, apparel and furniture and monition against all persons interested therein and that the Court will pronounce for said claim with costs and that said Steamer be sold to pay the same and for further relief.

                        A. Sterling Jr.

    On September 18,1884 the Steamer "Sue" was served with an attachment and padlocked to her dock. She was not permitted to sail until her owners posted a $1000.00 bond.

On February 2, 1885 Testimony in open court was heard. Among others testifying were:

Martha Stewart
Mary Stewart Johnson
Lucy Stewart Jones
Winnie Stewart
Pauline Braxton------------------Aunt
Dennis Johnson------------------Brother in law of Mary Stewart Johnson
Mary E Johnson------------------Sister in law of Mary Stewart Johnson
Dennis Gaskins-------------------Relationship not known
Louisa Robinson
Jennie Williams
Robert Rich
Mary Crowner