This day in history — April 13, 1947 — Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin Arrested in North Carolina

On June 3, 1946, the Supreme Court in Morgan v. Virginia declared unconstitutional state laws that segregated interstate passengers on motor carriers. Shortly thereafter, the decision was interpreted to apply to interstate train and bus travel. The executive committee of the Congress of Racial Equality and the racial-industrial committee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation organized a “Journey of Reconciliation” through the Upper South to determine whether train and bus companies were adhering to the Morgan decision. Over a period of two weeks in April 1947, an interracial group of men traveled to fifteen cities in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky to test whether public transportation vehicles were operating without segregation.

On April 13, 1947, Bayard Rustin, a thirty-five-year-old black civil rights activist, boarded a bus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as part of the “Journey of Reconciliation.” Mr. Rustin sat with a white man at the front of the bus and refused to move to the back when asked by the bus driver to do so. Police officers arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct and refusing to obey the bus driver. Three other activists traveling with Mr. Rustin were also arrested. When the men were released on bond, they were threatened with violence, and fled Chapel Hill after a white activist participating in the “Journey of Reconciliation” was assaulted.

Two years later, on March 21, 1949, Mr. Rustin was sentenced to thirty days imprisonment for sitting next to a white man on a bus, and spent over three weeks working on a prison chain gang that was overseen by armed guards.

From the Equal Justice Initiative’s A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.

“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on
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