Irene Morgan – a name to know

A while Back I wrote about Rosa Parks, one of my heros, Thank you Rosa Parks (December 2, 2007). I noted that while Rosa Parks was courageous and dedicated and deserving of being remembered and celebrated,  the idea that she acted alone and spontaneously was a myth. Parks was part of a movement. I noted,

That real change is often built on a series of often-invisible actions. That real change occurs because of the actions of many whose names and faces we will probably never know”. 

Today I want to honor one of those individuals that many of us never heard of, Irene Morgan.

Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Irene Morgan rejected that same demand. Morgan was traveling on an interstate bus headed to Maryland from Gloucester, Virginia when she refused to give up her seat to a white couple defying the drivers orders.  She was already sitting far in the back and was recovering from a miscarriage.

Like Parks, Morgan was arrested and jailed.  Unlike Parks, however, who was a secretary of her local NAACP chapter and had a support system in place, Morgan could not have had any idea if anyone would back her.  

Yet, her action caught the attention of lawyers from the NAACP, led by Thurgood Marshall, and in two years her case reached the Supreme Court.On June 3, 1946, in Irene Morgan v. Virginia, the court ruled that segregation in interstate travel was indeed unconstitutional as “an undue burden on commerce.”


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