Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History: Before Parks

“They said they didn’t want to use a pregnant teenager because it would be controversial and the people would talk about the pregnancy more than the boycott,” Colvin says.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-43171799

Was Rosa Parks the only woman to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus? Below are a few of the women left out of the history books. 


Irene Morgan – We have all heard of Rosa Parks, but there were at least three women who refused to give up their seats on the bus in the Jim Crow south throughout history. Eleven years before Parks, Irene Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a black woman, 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. The Irene Morgan Decision inspired the men and women of CORE to create a nationwide protest movement called “The Journey of Reconciliation” when groups of civil rights activists rode buses and trains across states in the South in 1947, a precursor to The Freedom Rides of 1961.

The Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, handed down a landmark decision on June 3, 1946, when they agreed that segregation violated the Constitution’s protection of interstate commerce. Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth catalyzed further court rulings and the Civil Rights movement. Eight years later, the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation violated Equal Rights Protection.

Irene Morgan died on August 10, 2007.

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Claudette Colvin – Born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger months before Rosa Parks on March 2, 1955. Colvin was only 15 years old but she was poor. She didn’t have the NAACP or the connections Parks had. As a result, little is know of her. The NAACP considered using Claudette but they said she was too young. They also looked away because she was pregnant and they did not want to represent a young, unwed mother and bring about negative attention to the movement. They thought Colvin’s condition would make blacks look bad. Colvin went on to serve as a plaintiff in the landmark legal case Browder v. Gayle, which helped end the practice of segregation on Montgomery public buses. Today, Claudette Colvin is still not a name you hear very often concerning bus desegregation, even though she was there before Parks.

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail,” she says.

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Aurelia Browder – After Colvin, Aurelia Browder followed suit and was arrested on April 19, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat. Browder was born on January 29, 1919. She joined the NAACP, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the Women’s Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Aurelia could join all the organizations she wanted but with six children and no husband, her refusal to give up her seat on a bus did not stick, even though she was before Parks.

Mary Louise Smith – Mary was born in 1937, in Montgomery, Alabama. She attended and graduated from St. Jude Educational Institute. On October 21, 1955, at the age of 18, Mary was returning home on the Montgomery city bus. At a stop after Mary had boarded and seated, a white passenger boarded. There was no place for the white passenger to sit and Mary was ordered to give up her seat. She refused. Mary was arrested and charged with failure to obey segregation orders and given a nine dollar fine, which her father paid.

Irene, Claudette, Aurelia, and Mary Louise was followed by Susie McDonald, and Jeanetta Reese, all had been arrested and charged with violating various policies regarding segregated seating on city buses.


Discover more Black History Fun Facts and Lost to History Facts HERE.

Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History

Have you ever wondered about those people who were part of history but who you never hear about? Sometimes people get lost to history. For whatever reason, their stories don’t make it to mainstream news, most of the time until years or even centuries later. Below is a list of four random people who were involved in major historical events in some way but whom we never hear much about. I will list a few every Thursday time permitting.

#1

Irene Morgan Kirkaldy in Hartford, Conn. Original Filename: A1.JPG ORG XMIT: ; 27

Irene Morgan – We have all heard of Rosa Parks, but there were at least three women who refused to give up their seats on the bus in the Jim Crow south over the course of history. Eleven years before Parks, Irene Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, an African-American woman, 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. The Irene Morgan Decision inspired the men and women of CORE to create a nationwide protest movement called “The Journey of Reconciliation” when groups of civil rights activists rode buses and trains across states in the South in 1947, a sort of precursor to The Freedom Rides of 1961.

The Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, handed down a landmark decision on June 3, 1946, when they agreed that segregation violated the Constitution’s protection of interstate commerce. Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth served as a catalyst for further court rulings and the Civil Rights movement. Eight years later, the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation violated Equal Rights Protection.

Irene Morgan died on August 10, 2007.

#2

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Sarah Collins Rudolph – We’re all familiar with the story of the Four Little Girls who were killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. However, there were five little girls who were injured, four died but one remained. Sarah Collins Rudolph is the fifth little girl who was injured in the 1963 bombing. Her story touches my heart because she was blinded and there is nothing like losing your eyes. In 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Sarah Collins Rudolph survived the blast, but her sister Addie Mae and three other girls were killed. Today, Sarah still struggles with the aftermath of the bombing.

Update (2017)

Speaking of Addie, another lost to history fact (something that is just becoming known but that didn’t make news upon discovery) is concerning Addie’s missing body. Thirty years after the bombing, her sisters visited the grave. Seeing the condition, the neglected state it was in, they decided to move the body to a better-maintained area. However, when they dug up the grave, they discovered the corpse was gone but not only was the corpse gone but so was the casket itself. Addie Mae’s body was missing. The last reported update came in May of this year (2017) when an underground radar company searched and found what appears to be a child’s casket. Read More Here

#3

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Virgil Lamar Ware – Emmett Till wasn’t the only youngin who perished in that day. Virgil Lamar Ware is a name we don’t hear very often or probably never did. At 13, Virgil was riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bicycle on September 15, 1963 when he was fatally shot by white teenagers. The white youths had come from a segregationist rally held in the aftermath of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. Talk about six degrees of separation (Six degrees of separation is the theory that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.)

#4

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Lamar Smith – We have all heard of Emmett Till who was murdered August 28 of 1955. What we don’t hear a lot about is the murder of Lamar Smith just two and a half weeks earlier of this same year. On August 13, 1955 in Brookhaven, Mississippi, a man named Lamar Smith was shot dead on the courthouse lawn by a white man in broad daylight while dozens of people watched. The killer was never indicted because no one would admit they saw a white man shoot a black man.