LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith and Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith and Irene Morgan Kirkaldy –  Rosa Parks is considered the godmother of the Civil Rights movement for not giving up her seat on a segregated bus in December 1955. Parks’s act of defiance has been recorded by history as being the spark that set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was in turn crucial in ending segregation. But Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Nine months before Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus, fifteen year old Claudette Colvin (right) was arrested in Montgomery for the same thing. Mary Louise Smith was arrested for not giving up her seat eight months later, and nearly two months before Parks. The black leaders of Montgomery felt neither Colvin nor Smith were appropriate to be placed in the forefront of the struggle for equality (Colvin was pregnant and unmarried). And eleven years before Colvin, Smith or Parks there was Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Greyhound bus in Virginia. Kirkaldy’s case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1946, which led to the landmark decision that segregation on interstate bus travel was illegal. This ruling was crucial in paving the way to end bus segregation throughout the South.

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