Remembering an Unknown American Hero

irene-morgan.jpgI had never heard of this lady before.

From the Associated Press :

GLOUCESTER, Va. – Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a black woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat to white passengers led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision more than a decade before Rosa Parks gained recognition for doing the same, has died at 90….

The Supreme Court held in June 1946 that Virginia law requiring the races to be separated on interstate buses — even making passengers change seats during their journey to maintain separation if the number of passengers changed — was an invalid interference in interstate commerce.

At the time, the case received little attention, and not all bus companies complied with the ruling at first, but it paved the way for civil rights victories to come, including Parks’ famous stand on a local bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

Kirkaldy also inspired the first Freedom Ride in 1947, when 16 civil rights activists rode buses and trains through the South to test the Supreme Court decision.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal — the second highest civilian honor in the United States.

Asked where her courage came from that day, Kirkaldy said simply: “I can’t understand how anyone would have done otherwise.”

She was not part of any organized movement, unlike Parks, who was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when she challenged segregation.

Kirkaldy, then a young mother, boarded the Greyhound bus in Hayes Store, Va., and took a seat toward the back for her ride home. She was recovering from surgery and had taken her two children to stay temporarily with her mother in Gloucester.


A few miles down the road, the driver told her to move because a white couple wanted to occupy her row.

“I said ‘Well, no,'” she recalled. “That was a seat I had paid for.”

Kirkaldy said she willingly paid a $100 fine for resisting arrest because she did kick the officer who tried to remove her from the bus.

“Sometimes, you are so enraged, you don’t have time to be afraid,” she remarked in 2000.

She lived out of the spotlight for decades after the case, earning a college degree in 1985 at age 68, and lived most of her life in New York state.


Read the entire article here:;_ylt=Ai884z6y_kaRRn2fegQowsdI2ocA

There is another interesting account on the Seventh Day Adventist e-magazine, the Adventist Review:

  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on August 13, 2007 - 4:47 pm

    Another famous black woman–one whose impact was great–is Maria (that’s Muh-Rya) Stewart. She was a philosopher and orator of the 19th century. She combined faith and social action–and demonstrates the role of women in the black church as one of strength.

    She was introduced to a class I recently completed in rhetoric.
    Unfortunately, I have not read more than a brief smattering of her, but for future reference I’m sure she is well worth while.


  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on August 13, 2007 - 5:48 pm

    Yeah, but did she kick a cop? That’s the best part; here we have this ailing woman with two children in tow, being told to submit to a couple of jerks (yes jerks, I don’t care what the times were like and what people were accustomed to) and not only to does she stand up for herself, she physically resists arrest.

    Now, I assume she was a Bible believing woman, an Adventist. What do you suppose St. Paul would have had to say about that? Contrary to how he is interpreted on these issues of submission and authority, I think he would have yelled something like, “Right on, Lady!”

  3. #3 by Lola Lyndon on August 13, 2007 - 6:10 pm

    A very interesting fact and good to know.

  4. #4 by Ambrosia de Milano on August 13, 2007 - 6:20 pm

    I don’t know if Ms. Stewart kicked a cop, but she preached social justice when such a thing was not in Vogue (or in Time, Newsweek, or The Saturday Evening Post, for that matter–but I believe Harper’s magazine might have stood for such stuff).

    Yes– Rosa and Morgan were quite brave for not giving up their seats. BTW, Jackie Robinson (yes Chris, that Jackie Robinson) also refused to give up his seat and was subsequently court-martialed. The army did not do what to do with the case, so Robinson was sort of quietly discharged from the army.


  5. #5 by titus2woman on August 13, 2007 - 10:23 pm

    OH WOW~thank you for this! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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