Irene Morgan Refuses to Change Seats on Bus by Calvin Eaton | 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History (XIII)

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Irene Morgan Refuses to Change Seats on Bus

On July 16, 1944, Irene Morgan defied Virginia authorities by refusing to change her seat on a segregated bus in Virginia. Morgan was travelling from Virginia to Maryland, when she was told by authorities that she had to move to the back of the bus.

On her way for a doctor’s appointment and already sitting in the area designated for Black passengers, she defied the driver’s order to surrender her seat to a white couple. She stated that because it was an interstate bus, the laws of Virginia did not apply.

Washington Afro-American cover with Irene Morgan.

When handed an arrest warrant, she tore it up and tossed it out the window. Irene’s defiance of white supremacy while traveling through the Upper South eventually led to a Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated seating on interstate bus lines

Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP took on her case and in 1946 the Supreme Court ruling, the court stated in part, “It seems clear to us that seating arrangements for the different races in interstate motor travel require a single, uniform rule to promote and protect national travel. Consequently, we hold the Virginia statute in controversy invalid.”

Southern states refused to enforce the decision, leading to the Freedom Rides and eventually the larger Civil Rights Movement.  Irene a trailblazer and womanist died at the age of 90 in Hayes, Va.


  1. Zinn Education Project 
  2. Blackdahistory
About 29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History

29 Days of Little Known Facts About (Black) American History is an annual blog campaign curated by 540WMain that has a mission to promote and share little known facts about Black Americans throughout history every day throughout the month of February. Now in it 3rd year the campaign highlights the life and work of past and present day Black American that are overlooked or underrepresented in our conversations about American history.

540WMain will celebrate its 4 year anniversary with a party and extravaganza on Saturday June 20, 2020. In just four years the organization has become a pillar in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood and a convener and curator of important and vital community conversations, classes, and programs. Your financial support helps us scale up this work in 2020 and beyond with a year long fundraising goal of $40,000

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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