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Martha White, who had ‘instrumental role’ in Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, dies at age 99

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 12:09 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Martha White, the woman known for her “instrumental role” in launching the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, has died.

Family members tell WAFB White died on Saturday, June 5 at the age of 99.

The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott happened on June 15, 1953.

The family says White was 23 when she refused to vacate a seat on a Baton Rouge bus reserved only for white passengers. Another African American woman sat down next to White and urged the other riders to stick together and remain on the bus.

The driver threatened to have the women arrested and summoned the police. Police and the bus company manager arrived at the scene. The driver was informed that Ms. White was within her rights per a city council ordinance to desegregate buses that was previously passed.

Family members say her bold action and the actions of others served as a model for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued the following statement about White’s death on Monday:

“Baton Rouge is known for organizing the first large-scale boycott of the segregated bus system; the success of this movement inspired communities throughout the Jim Crow South to stand up to the injustices in their communities. Today, Baton Rouge mourns the loss of one of the instrumental organizers of this transformative movement, Ms. Martha White.

On June 15, 1953, White stood her ground and refused to forfeit her seat on a city bus as she was within her rights per a city council ordinance to desegregate buses. She was met with resistance and threats from the bus operator. Her fearlessness and bold action was instrumental in launching the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott.

Martha White undoubtedly shaped our community in Baton Rouge, and communities across our nation. We honor her legacy today and every day.”

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