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Morgan v. Virginia


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328 U.S. 373 (1946), argued 27 Mar. 1946, decided 3 June 1946 by vote of 7 to 1. Reed for the Court, Rutledge, Black, and Frankfurter concurring, Burton in dissent, Jackson not participating. This case was one of the constellation of civil rights cases brought to the Supreme Court in the post-World War II years by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that challenged the pattern of racial segregation in the American South. Irene Morgan, an African-American woman, boarded an interstate Greyhound bus in Gloucester County, Virginia, bound for Baltimore, Maryland. When ordered by the driver to sit at the rear of the bus, as required by Virginia law, Morgan refused. She was arrested and convicted in Virginia of a misdemeanor, and fined ten dollars. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed her conviction.

Attorneys William H. Hastie and Thurgood Marshall carried an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Virginia statute, which required segregation on interstate carriers, imposed an improper burden on interstate commerce. Citing Hall v. DeCuir (1878), in which the justices voided a Louisiana statute prohibiting racial segregation in interstate transportation, Marshall and Hastie urged the Court to reverse the Virginia court and invalidate the statute. Justice Stanley Reed, in his opinion, found their argument convincing and struck down the law. In practice, segregation on southern buses continued on an informal basis, even though it was clear that such practices on interstate bus travel would not survive legal challenge.

Augustus M. Burns III

Subjects: Law.


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