The following post is by MYRLN, a non-blogger who is Kalilily’s guest writer every Monday.
First there was Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat, right?
Well, no. Courageous as Rosa Parks’s act of civil disobedience was, and as important as it was to the Civil Rights Movement, it was not the first such act of its kind.
Last week, August 14, a woman named Irene Morgan Kirkaldy died at age 90 of Alzheimer’s. It’s not a name we’re familiar with, and that’s too bad. You see, back in 1944, at age 27, this woman got on a Greyhound bus headed from Gloucester, Virginia, to Baltimore, Maryland. Then she was arrested. Why? Because she, a black woman, refused to give up her seat to white passengers and subsequently resisted arrest. As she described her encounter with a sheriff, “I kicked him in a very bad place.” According to her daughter, Mrs. Kirkaldy later always told her children, “If you know you’re right, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”
Further importance is added to her action by the subsequent legal outcome. She was convicted of violating Virginia’s segregation law, and eventually, her case went all the way to the Supreme Court. There it was successfully appealed by a future Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. The case paved the way for what was to come.
All this more than a decade before Rosa Parks’s landmark resistance in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.
So how come we didn’t/don’t hear anything about Irene Morgan Kirkaldy? “She didn’t see herself as a hero,” her daughter says. So she likely never sought recognition. And back when she committed her act of civil disobedience, World War II was raging, nearing its end, yes, but still the overwhelmingly dominant activity of the time. There wasn’t much national interest in or attention to some “quarrel” about a bus seat.
But that unnoticed seed flowered fully eleven years later, and we might wonder if Rosa Parks knew of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, if she drew inspiration from her predecessor, that little-known woman to whom we owe a great deal. (As a side note, Mrs. Kirkaldy earned a degree from St. John’s at age 68, and then a Master’s from Queens College at age 73.)
And it would be a greater honor to her if some 63 years later, we’d totally erased the notion that black or white had any relevance in our culture. “I have a dream my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character….” Thus Martin Luther King spoke to us 19 years after that brave woman’s defiance. And now, another 44 years after King’s words, we actually have being raised this astonishing question about a candidate for a presidential nomination: Is he black enough?
Maybe we need again to say, loud and clear, “ENOUGH!” And add…”PERIOD!”
If only to say the sacrifice of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy really meant something.

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