Historical marker to honor Irene Morgan

- Posted on Jul 10, 2019 - 12:48 PM

Photo: Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

Irene Morgan Kirkaldy

A new historical marker for Gloucester honoring Irene Morgan was approved during the June 20 meeting of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources. 

Morgan boarded a segregated Greyhound bus in the county in July 1944. After driving about 25 miles, the driver ordered Morgan to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused and was arrested and jailed in Saluda. 

A legal suit Morgan pursued reached the U.S. Supreme Court, “which decided in Morgan v. Virginia (1946) that laws requiring the segregation of passengers in interstate transportation were unconstitutional.”

The Morgan historical marker will be placed at 2425 Hayes Road as proposed by its sponsor, Friends of the Museum, and will read as follows: 

“On this site stood the Hayes Store Post Office, where Irene Morgan boarded a Greyhound bus on 16 July 1944. Morgan, an African American woman, was returning home to Baltimore, MD, after visiting her mother.

“About 25 miles north of here, the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat so that a white passenger could sit. Refusing to comply, she was arrested and jailed in Saluda, VA. Her case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in Morgan v. Virginia (1946) that laws requiring the segregation of passengers in interstate transportation were unconstitutional. Morgan took her stand 11 years before Rosa Parks in Montgomery, AL.”

The Morgan marker is one of 13 approved by the board during its June meeting. Typically, it can take up to three months or more before new markers are erected and dedicated by their sponsors, who also cover their costs.

In 2012, another state historical marker commemorating the incident, and the Supreme Court decision that followed, was unveiled in Saluda. Irene Morgan Kirkaldy died in 2007 at her daughter’s Gloucester home at the age of 90.