Historical marker honoring Irene Morgan to be dedicated
On Saturday, October 13, at 10 a.m., the Middlesex County Museum and Historical Society Inc. and the Middlesex NAACP will sponsor a dedication ceremony honoring Irene Morgan Kirkaldy (1917-2007), one of our nation’s civil rights pioneers.
The dedication will be held at the historical courthouse building on General Puller Highway in Saluda. The roadside marker in honor of Irene Morgan has already been set in front of the courthouse building, which was near the location that Ms. Morgan was actually arrested.
After the ceremony inside of the courthouse, those in attendance will proceed to the site of the highway marker for the unveiling ceremony and dedication program.
“A heartfelt thanks to the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors for its assistance in providing the use of the building and grounds,” said museum president Marilyn South.
Irene Morgan’s resistance to segregation in the Morgan vs. Virginia case led to the U.S. Supreme Court handing down a landmark decision banning segregation in interstate travel in 1946. On July 16, 1944, Morgan refused to give up her seat on a Greyhound bus to a white passenger. After a struggle with the Middlesex County Sheriff, she was arrested and detained. Convicted by the state, she appealed her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with the help of the NAACP Dream Team, Spottswood W. Robinson III, Thurgood Marshall, and others.
This case helped set precedent for later battles waged against segregation. In 1947, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sponsored freedom rides, known as the Journey of Reconciliation. These courageous interracial riders were met with violence, arrest, and imprisonment while embarking on Greyhound bus rides to test the “Morgan Law.” The riders were supported by the NAACP.
In 1955, NAACP lawyers waged a community-supported desegregation campaign in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycotts.
In 1961, more than a decade after the Journey of Reconciliation, courageous college students again embarked on freedom rides to pressure the federal government to enforce the Morgan Law. These freedom riders, who faced violence, unjust arrest, and imprisonment, were also represented by the NAACP.
Reverend Fred Carter, a local historian and pastor, will deliver keynote remarks along with Morgan’s family. In addition, remarks will be made by Robin Washington, a journalist, historian, documentation, and friend of Irene Morgan. Freedom riders from the 1961 Nashville campaign will be present and participate in the ceremony.
The historic highway marker honoring Morgan is the first marker erected by the county museum and NAACP. A future marker will include the Middlesex County Training School/John Henry St. Clare Walker.
This first marker has been funded by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Pending future approval by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Middlesex County Training School/John Henry St. Clare Walker has been funded by the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors.
This historic event is free to the public and questions may be directed to the Middlesex County Museum & Historical Society Inc. at 804-776-6983. Please visit the museum website at http://www.middlesexmuseum.com for additional information.