By Ronald Court
I recently read of the death of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, age 90 in Gloucester, VA. In 1944, eleven years before Rosa Parks, she refused to move to the back of the bus. Read her NYTimes obit here.
She paid a fine for kicking a sheriff but refused to pay a much smaller fine for refusing to move. This woman of integrity and character planted the seed for a winning NAACP strategy that had to wait until the time was right. Irene Morgan’s case, argued in part by a young NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall, went all the way to the US Supreme Court. She won.
But another decade elapsed before the strategy could be executed. Conditions needed to be right. In 1955, the same act, this time by Rosa Parks, a part-time NAACP volunteer worker, sparked sufficient wide-spread concern to make a lasting difference.
The marches, riots and oratory of ML King Jr. following Rosa Parks’ action might well have gone unnoticed as well, had not the new technology of television exposed the ugly face of segregation to the Nation, and indeed, to the world.
Booker T. could not have been aware of the advent or impact of TV, but he clearly foresaw that social progress would take time — and a lot of it. He knew the first priority for Blacks had to be to focus on and achieve economic progress while affording Whites time to absorb a ‘new social order.’ Arguably, time has proven Booker T’s assessment to be correct.