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Morgan v. Virginia (1946)

March 27, 1946, Argued

June 3, 1946, Decided

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal brings to this Court the question of the constitutionality of an act of Virginia, which requires all passenger motor vehicle carriers, both interstate and intrastate, to separate without discrimination the white and colored passengers in their motor buses so that contiguous seats will not be occupied by persons of different races at the same time. A violation of the requirement of separation by the carrier is a misdemeanor. The driver or other person in charge is directed and required to increase or decrease the space allotted to the respective races as may be necessary or proper and may require passengers to change their seats to comply with the allocation. The operator"s failure to enforce the provisions is made a misdemeanor.

These regulations were applied to an interstate passenger, this appellant, on a motor vehicle then making an interstate run or trip. According to the statement of fact by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, appellant, who is a Negro, was traveling on a motor common carrier, operating under the above-mentioned statute, from Gloucester County, Virginia, through the District of Columbia, to Baltimore, Maryland, the destination of the bus. There were other passengers, both white and colored. On her refusal to accede to a request of the driver to move to a back seat, which was partly occupied by other colored passengers, so as to permit the seat that she vacated to be used by white passengers, a warrant was obtained and appellant was arrested, tried and convicted of a violation of § 4097dd of the Virginia Code. On a writ of error the conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. 184 Va. 24. The Court of Appeals interpreted the Virginia statute as applicable to appellant since the statute "embraces all motor vehicles and all passengers, both interstate and intrastate." The Court of Appeals refused to accept appellant"s contention that the statute applied

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