Irene Amos Morgan

Irene Amos Morgan

(1917–2007)
Gloucester County
Principal in a civil rights case

Irene Amos Morgan (April 9, 1917–August 10, 2007) left her mother's house in Gloucester County on July 16, 1944, to ride the bus to Baltimore to see her doctor. When more white passengers got on in Middlesex County, the driver asked her to stand to allow the white people to sit. She refused, and the bus driver had her arrested. A court convicted Morgan of violating a 1930 Virginia law requiring separation of white and black passengers. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Morgan's conviction. With assistance from attorneys of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Morgan appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. On June 3, 1946, the Court ruled in the case of Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia that the Virginia law placed an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Thurgood Marshall, who later served on the Court, declared that Morgan's victory was "a decisive blow to the evil of segregation and all that it stands for."

Irene Morgan's husband died in 1948, and she later married Stanley Kirkaldy and lived in New York, where she ran a child-care center. She graduated from Saint John's University in 1985 and received a master's degree from Queens College in 1990. In 2000 the county of Gloucester honored her during its 350th anniversary celebration, and in January 2001 the president of the United States awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal in recognition of her courage and the importance of her actions.

Nominated by Alyssa Murray's and Kerri Black's fourth-grade students (2010–2011), John B. Cary Elementary School, Richmond

READ an excerpt from the United States Supreme Court's opinion concerning Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia.

For Educators