Black Ancestors : Desegregation pioneer Irene Morgan

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by smoothsoul, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. smoothsoul

    smoothsoul Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    [​IMG] 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.

    Kirkaldy, born Irene Morgan in Baltimore in 1917, was arrested in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus heading from Gloucester to Baltimore, and for resisting arrest.

    Her case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by an NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black justice on the high court.

    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.

    She said she didn't mind the relatively little notice her achievements brought.

    "If there's a job to be done, you do it and get it over with and go on to the next thing," she told The Washington Post in 2000.

    Her daughter, Brenda Bacquie, told the newspaper: "She always taught us that if you know you're right, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It's a moral thing. ... She doesn't see herself as a hero."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070813/ap_on_re_us/obit_kirkaldy
     
  2. Desert Storm

    Desert Storm Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Aren't I a Woman?

    That's the question I would ask. It's so silly to get arrested over something as simple as a seat that you paid for on the bus. I didn't know that Irene Kirkaldy, did the same thing as Rosa Parks. However, I'm not surprised. These are real ladies because they stay sweet even till the end, inspite of it all.

    Thanks for this.
    Desert Storm
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Biography

    [​IMG]
    Irene Morgan


    Eleven years before Rosa Parks, Irene Morgan was arrested in Virginia for refusing to give her bus seat to a white passenger. She was convicted on October 18, 1944 at the Middlesex County Circuit Court, but appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court where her conviction was upheld. With help from NAACP lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 1946. Though narrowly interpreted, the Court's decision struck down state laws requiring segregated seating for interstate bus travel. In 1947 the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sent 16 volunteers on the Journey of Reconciliation to test compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling. Fourteen years later, however, the unconstitutional practice of racially segregated seating on interstate buses continued throughout the Deep South, prompting CORE to organize the Freedom Rides in 1961 in an effort to focus national attention on the issue.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/people/irene-morgan
     
  4. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/about

    ABOUT THE FILM

    FREEDOM RIDERS is the powerful harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.
    From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Wounded Knee, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till) FREEDOM RIDERS features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand. The two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault's book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.
    I got up one morning in May and I said to my folks at home, I won't be back today
    because I'm a Freedom Rider. It was like a wave or a wind that you didn't know where it was coming from or where it was going, but you knew you were supposed to be there.
    — Pauline Knight-Ofuso, Freedom Rider​
    Despite two earlier Supreme Court decisions that mandated the desegregation of interstate travel facilities, black Americans in 1961 continued to endure hostility and racism while traveling through the South. The newly inaugurated Kennedy administration, embroiled in the Cold War and worried about the nuclear threat, did little to address domestic civil rights.
    "It became clear that the civil rights leaders had to do something desperate, something dramatic to get Kennedy's attention. That was the idea behind the Freedom Rides—to dare the federal government to do what it was supposed to do, and see if their constitutional rights would be protected by the Kennedy administration," explains Arsenault.
    Organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the self-proclaimed "Freedom Riders" came from all strata of American society—black and white, young and old, male and female, Northern and Southern. They embarked on the Rides knowing the danger but firmly committed to the ideals of non-violent protest, aware that their actions could provoke a savage response but willing to put their lives on the line for the cause of justice.
    Each time the Freedom Rides met violence and the campaign seemed doomed, new ways were found to sustain and even expand the movement. After Klansmen in Alabama set fire to the original Freedom Ride bus, student activists from Nashville organized a ride of their own. "We were past fear. If we were going to die, we were gonna die, but we can't stop," recalls Rider Joan Trumpauer-Mulholland. "If one person falls, others take their place."
    Later, Mississippi officials locked up more than 300 Riders in the notorious Parchman State Penitentiary. Rather than weaken the Riders' resolve, the move only strengthened their determination. None of the obstacles placed in their path would weaken their commitment.
    The Riders' journey was front-page news and the world was watching. After nearly five months of fighting, the federal government capitulated. On September 22, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued its order to end the segregation in bus and rail stations that had been in place for generations. "This was the first unambiguous victory in the long history of the Civil Rights Movement. It finally said, ‘We can do this.' And it raised expectations across the board for greater victories in the future," says Arsenault.
    "The people that took a seat on these buses, that went to jail in Jackson, that went to Parchman, they were never the same. We had moments there to learn, to teach each other the way of nonviolence, the way of love, the way of peace. The Freedom Ride created an unbelievable sense: Yes, we will make it. Yes, we will survive. And that nothing, but nothing, was going to stop this movement," recalls Congressman John Lewis, one of the original Riders.
    Says filmmaker Stanley Nelson, "The lesson of the Freedom Rides is that great change can come from a few small steps taken by courageous people. And that sometimes to do any great thing, it's important that we step out alone."
     
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