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Beloved civil rights figure, Martha White, dies at the age of 99

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BATON ROUGE - Martha White, one of the driving forces behind the Civil Rights movement in the capital area, passed away over the weekend.

A spokesperson said White died Saturday. She was 99 years old.

White was instrumental in launching the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott in 1953 when she sat down in an empty "white" seat in a bus full of standing Black passengers.

White was featured in a 2018 WBRZ report where she reminisced on the boycott at the Odell S. Williams African-American Museum in Baton Rouge.

Read the full statement below.

"Martha White of Baton Rouge, LA. died on Saturday, June 5, 2021 at the age of 99 years old. Ms. White is known for playing an instrumental role in launching the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott. Martha White, then a twenty-three-year-old housekeeper, walked miles every day to her bus stop, stood on the bus, worked on her feet all day, and then had to endure the exhausting return trip home late in the evening. On June 15, 1953, White’s bus was full of standing black passengers, and the “white” seats in the front were available. Worn out from her daily routine, White sat down behind the driver, explaining that she would get up if a white passenger boarded the bus. The driver ordered her out of the seat. 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. Her bold action and the actions of others served as a model for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This was a stepping-stone toward a significant period in U.S. history."


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