Tabacco: December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Public Bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.
Tabacco: In 1944, Irene Morgan refused to give up her seat on a Public Bus to a white man while traveling through Virginia.
Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in Major League Baseball, was signed in 1945 and began his Major League career in the National League in 1947. He is well known to most people, regardless of their color.
Larry Doby, the second Black player in Major League Baseball, began his Major League career in the American League in 1948. He is much less well known to most people, regardless of their color.
History plays ‘Favorites’, and not just when it concerns people of color. I attempt to do my small part in correcting these oversights.
Without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you
BLACK HALL OF FAME (BHOF) INDUCTEE:
IRENE MORGAN KIRKALDY
Guest Author – Toni Collinson
Irene Morgan was an important yet largely unknown figure of American civil rights. She was a mother of two living in Gloucester County, Virginia. In July 1944, she was riding on a bus in the section for ‘colored people’. As she was unwell, she refused to move when asked to by a white couple, who had boarded. Because of this simple action, she went from being a law-abiding mother of two, to a criminal in the eyes of the law. The sheriff was contacted to sort out the situation.
Morgan waited for the sheriff to arrive. When he attempted to arrest her, she fought the arrest, even kicking him the groin and scratching him. After being arrested and jailed, she was charged with resisting arrest and violating the segregation laws of Virginia.
A $100 fine was issued for resisting arrest, which Morgan agreed to pay. However, when a $10 fine was issued for violating the segregation laws of Virginia Morgan refused, arguing that it was unlawful to segregate interstate travel. Not only did Morgan refuse to pay, she requested help from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and ultimately took her case all the way to the US Supreme Court. On June 3, 1946, Irene Morgan was finally vindicated after the US Supreme court found it unlawful to segregate interstate travel. It took 2 long years after being unjustly arrested before Morgan finally received justice.
Even though the ruling was made that segregating interstate travel was unlawful, the Southern States still refused to abide by the ruling, arresting or ejecting African-American customers who did not follow the segregation rules. It was 11 long years before the American Civil Rights Movement was in full force, ultimately ending bus segregation.
Irene Morgan, in the simple action of refusing to give up her bus seat, helped pave the way for further non-violent protest in years to come. She saw that what was happening was unjust, and made a brave move by standing up to help future generations avoid this type of treatment. She truly was a civil rights hero, and was awarded the ‘Presidential Citizens Medal’ in 2001 by President Bill Clinton.
Irene Morgan passed away on August 10, 2007 at the age of 90. Her contribution to society has left a large mark, showing people that they have the ability to overcome many unjust obstacles that they may face in the present and future. Morgan has given society an important lesson that we must not forget.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Irene Morgan (April 9, 1917 – August 10, 2007), later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, was an African-American woman who was arrested in Middlesex County, Virginia, in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on an interstate bus according to a state law on segregation.
She consulted with attorneys to appeal her conviction. With the help of William H. Hastie, the former governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and later a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Thurgood Marshall, legal counsel of the NAACP, her case, Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946), was taken to the United States Supreme Court. In 1946 in a landmark decision, the Court ruled that the Virginia law was unconstitutional, as the Commerce clause protected interstate traffic.
- 1 Early life, education and family
- 2 Arrest, jail and conviction
- 3 U.S. Supreme Court case
- 4 Journey of Reconciliation
- 5 Legacy and honors
- 6 Representation in other media
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Early life, education and family
Morgan was married twice. She had two children, a son and a daughter, with first husband Sherwood Morgan Sr., who died in 1948. She then married Stanley Kirkaldy, with whom she ran a child-care center in Queens, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University when she was 68 years old. Five years later Morgan earned a master’s degree in Urban Studies from Queens College.
Arrest, jail and conviction
In 1944, the 27-year-old Irene Morgan was traveling to Baltimore, Maryland when she was arrested and jailed in Virginia for refusing to sit in a segregated section on an interstate Greyhound bus. Although interstate transportation was supposed to be desegregated, the state enforced segregated seating within its borders.
The bus driver stopped in Middlesex County, Virginia, and summoned the sheriff. When he tried to arrest Morgan, she tore up the arrest warrant, kicked the sheriff in the groin, and fought with the deputy who tried to pull her off the bus. She was convicted of violating state law for segregation on buses and other public transportation. Morgan pled guilty to the charge of resisting arrest and was fined $100. However, she refused the guilty plea for violating Virginia’s segregation law.
Irene Morgan appealed her case. After exhausting appeals in state courts, she and her lawyers took her case on constitutional grounds to the federal courts, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1946, the justices agreed to hear the case.
U.S. Supreme Court case
Main article: Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia
Her case, Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946), was argued by William H. Hastie, the former governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and later a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Thurgood Marshall was co-counsel and later became a Supreme Court justice.
The action resulted in a landmark ruling in 1946, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Virginia’s state law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was illegal. Hastie and Marshall used an innovative strategy to brief and argue the case. Instead of relying upon the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, they argued successfully that segregation on interstate travel violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“If something happens to you which is wrong, the best thing to do is have it corrected in the best way you can,” said Morgan. “The best thing for me to do was to go to the Supreme Court.”
In 1960, in Boynton v. Virginia, the Supreme Court extended the Morgan ruling to bus terminals used in interstate bus service. African Americans continued to be ejected or arrested when they tried to integrate such facilities, as Southern states refused to obey Morgan v. Virginia.
Journey of Reconciliation
Morgan’s case inspired the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, during which 16 activists from the Chicago-based Congress of Racial Equality rode on interstate buses through the Upper South to test the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling. The activists divided themselves between the interstate Greyhound and Trailways bus lines. They usually placed an interracial pair in the white-area of the bus. Other activists, disguised as ordinary passengers, rode in the racial sections “reserved” for them.
The group traveled uneventfully through Virginia, but when they reached North Carolina, they encountered arrests and violence. By the end of the Journey, the protesters had conducted over 24 “tests,” and endured 12 arrests and dangerous mob violence. In a flagrant violation of the Morgan decision, North Carolina police arrested the civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. A jury convicted him and he was and sentenced to 22 days on a chain gang for violating the state’s segregation laws, although he had been on an interstate bus.
The 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, ahead of its time in the use of tactics of nonviolent direct action, inspired the highly publicized Freedom Rides of 1961, also organized by CORE.
In 2000, Mrs. Kirkaldy was honored by Gloucester County during its 350th anniversary celebration, and in 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Irene Morgan was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In later life, Morgan moved to Gloucester County, Virginia. She died on August 10, 2007, at her daughter’s home, at 90 years of age.
Legacy and honors
- 1995, Robin Washington was the producer for the documentary You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!, aired on New Hampshire Public TV. It featured Morgan Kirkaldy and survivors of the 1947 “Journey of Reconciliation.” Morgan received renewed attention for her contributions.
- In 2000 Morgan Kirkaldy was honored by Gloucester County, Virginia during its 350th anniversary celebration.
- In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.
- In 2002, PBS featured a four-part series entitled, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Associated materials include an article on Morgan v. Virginia.
- 2010, Kirkaldy was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame
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