Old Hayes Store - The Irene Morgan Story

Historical Significance

On July 16, 1944, Irene Morgan (1917-2007), an African American native of Gloucester County, Virginia, was a passenger on a Greyhound bus traveling from the Old Hayes Store in Gloucester County to Baltimore, Maryland. A short time after boarding the bus, and with additional passengers joining them, the driver ordered Mrs. Morgan (later Kirkaldy) and another black passenger next to her to give up their seats so that whites might be seated. Mrs. Morgan refused. After warning that he would have her arrested, the driver pulled into Saluda in Middlesex County a few minutes later. The sheriff boarded the bus with a warrant, but Mrs. Morgan threw the warrant out the window and kicked the sheriff. She was eventually arrested by a deputy and jailed.

Enlisting the help of the State Conference of the NAACP, Irene Morgan appealed her case through the local, state, and Supreme courts. Her lawyers, Thurgood Marshall and William Hastie, argued that "Virginia's segregation law was an undue burden on interstate commerce." The Supreme Court ruled in Mrs. Morgan's favor in 1946. A song written soon afterwards declared, "You don't have to ride Jim Crow, 'cause Irene Morgan won her case!" Unfortunately, the victory was not so clear-cut. In the subsequent years, a courageous group of black and white men attempting to test the ruling met with mixed responses as they rode buses into the South; in the absence of state law, bus companies created their own Jim Crow rules.

Nonetheless, Irene Morgan's stand for equal treatment paved the way for Rosa Parks to take a similar stand eleven years later. Until recently, Mrs. Morgan's contribution to civil rights has gone largely unrecognized. She received national attention on August 5th, 2000, when Gloucester County's 350th Celebration Committee paid tribute to her in a "Welcome Home Ceremony."

Physical Description

Triangular grassy site located on corner of the two highways near auto parts store.

Geographical and Contact Information

Intersection of Hayes and Hook Roads
Gloucester, Virginia
23061

Cite this Page:

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, “Old Hayes Store - The Irene Morgan Story,” African American Historic Sites Database, accessed May 28, 2017, http://aahistoricsitesva.org/items/show/320.

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