Prison Radio
Sergio Hyland

What’s going on everybody? It’s Uptown Serg again. We’re honoring a true hero. I want to take some time to pay homage to an unspoken civil rights hero, one who made history has set the stage for perhaps the biggest civil rights victory during the 20th century.

Her name is Irene Morgan Kirkaldy. 11 years before the world would come to know Rosa Parks, Irene Kirkaldy refused to give her seat up to a white passenger on a Greyhound bus headed toward her home state of Virginia. She was quickly arrested and charged with that offense along with assaulting the policemen who tried to arrest her. Two years later in 1946, a case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States where the justices ruled that segregation on interstate buses was unconstitutional.

Irene Kirkaldy never sought attention or fame for what she did that day, but without those brave actions, a large part of the civil rights movement would be missing. For instance, it was Irene Kirkaldy’s bold resistance that day which led to her hiring a young lawyer from the NAACP named Thurgood Marshall.

And if it weren’t for Irene Kirkaldy’s courage that day, her victory wouldn’t have led to the very first Freedom Rides in the South in 1947. What’s most inspiring to me about our Kirkaldy is that her resistance was spontaneous, not planned by some committee in a boardroom. When asked where she got the courage to resist that day, she replied: “I can’t understand how anyone would have done otherwise.”

Today, so far removed from the civil rights era, we sometimes take for granted those things in life that have become such a regular part of our existence. Maybe we think that we would have easily done what Irene Kirkcaldy did that day.

In truth, the only thing that we easily do is talk about what we would have done. I can only hope that, if faced with a similar dilemma, I will act in a similar way. But the fact that I can even imagine being faced with a similar dilemma shows just how slow progress really is in America, just how far we still have to go.

Nevertheless, on this day I salute Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a true African-American shero. Irene Morgan Kirkcaldy died in 2007 at the age of 90.

Thanks for listening. I’m Uptown Serg. Follow me on Instagram @uptownserg.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.