Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History: Before Parks

Last year, I started a series I didn’t get to finish. Unfamiliar Faces: Lost to History was something I thought of doing because I realized how much black history is repetition and how much is rarely mentioned. CLICK HERE to view the first post.

I said I wanted to post every Thursday on this topic. Somehow I got side tracked. But I’m back on it.

Every year in February we are certain to hear one name: Rosa Parks. But, was she the first? Below are women who were lost to history, though they were before Parks:


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 15years old but she was poor. She didnt have the NAACP or the connections Parks had. As a result, little is know of her. In fact, 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. In short, they looked down on Colvin. Still, 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 in relation to bus desegregation, even though she was there before Parks.


Aurelia Browder

After Colvin Aurelia Browder followed suit and was arrested on April 19, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat. Born on January 29, 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama, we can rest assured Aurelia knew well the likes ofJim Crow. We can imagine this is why she joined the NAACP, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the Women’s Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). However, Aurelia could join all the organizations she wanted but with six children and no husband her refusal to give up her seat did not stick, even though she was before Parks.

Aurelia was followed by Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanatta Reese, all who were arrested for refusing to give their seats up on a bus in 1955.


Irene Morgan

I mentioned her in my first post but I’m doing it again for emphasis since she came eleven years before the women above. Many are just now starting to hear more and more about Morgan. Eleven years before both Parks and Colvin was Irene Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, another black woman arrested in Middlesex County, Virginia, in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on an interstate. The Irene Morgan Decision inspired the men and women of CORE to create a nationwide protest movement called The Journey of Reconciliation which later inspired The Freedom Rides.


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.


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.



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



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.)



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.