Martha White, 99, Dies; Before Rosa Parks, She Sparked a Bus Boycott

Two years later, Dr. King visited Mr. Jemison’s Mount Zion Church to find out how the boycott had been organized. Ms. White was amongst those that sat within the pews to see him, considered one of her nephews, John Denman, mentioned in an interview.

Dr. King would use a number of the similar techniques in Montgomery — organizing different transportation strategies, involving the church buildings and retaining the protests nonviolent. That boycott, which lasted 381 days and ended with a triumphant court docket ruling, diverted consideration from Baton Rouge.

But over time, numerous writings and theatrical productions, and particularly a 2004 documentary by Louisiana Public Broadcasting referred to as “Signpost to Freedom: The 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott,” have reclaimed its place in historical past.

Martha White was born on April 2, 1922, in Woodville, Miss., within the southwest a part of the state, considered one of seven youngsters of Ephraim and Viola White, who have been sharecroppers. Her mom died when Martha was in her early teenagers, and afterward her uncles introduced her and a few of her siblings to Baton Rouge. She later earned her highschool equivalency diploma.

Ms. White had a temporary marriage that led to divorce and went to work as a housekeeper. With her wages, she was in a position to purchase her own residence in Baton Rouge, the place she lived for a lot of the remainder of her life.

In addition to Mr. Denman, she is survived by a number of different nieces and nephews. One of her siblings, Isaac White Sr., a barber, ran White’s Barber College in Mobile, Ala., and have become a pillar of the neighborhood. He died in 2019.

Ms. White’s choice to sit down within the white part of the bus had a lasting impact on the Baton Rouge Bus Company. Not solely did it change the principles for passengers; it additionally ultimately employed Black workers. Mr. Denman received a job there in 1966 and rose to supervisor earlier than he retired after 43 years.

Some of her different kinfolk nonetheless work on the firm, now referred to as Capital Area Transit System, Mr. Denman mentioned, including, “Her bloodline is deep into that bus line.”

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