Sarah Louise Keys


On Aug. 1, 1952, Pfc. Sarah Louise Keys traveled from Fort Dix, N.J., to her family’s home in Washington, NC. During a stop to change drivers, she was told to relinquish her seat to a white Marine and move to the back of the bus. Keys refused to move, whereupon the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle, and barred Keys from boarding it.

When Keys asked why she shouldn’t ride the bus, she was arrested, and spent 13 hours in a cell. Keys was eventually ordered to pay a $25 fine for disorderly conduct, was released, and put on a bus to her hometown. Her case was brought before the Interstate Commerce Commission with Dovey Johnson Roundtree as her lawyer and wasn’t settled until 1955. In Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, the ICC favored Keys Evans, ruling the Interstate Commerce Act forbids segregation. Learn more.

Though not the first civil rights movement figure to refuse to give up a seat, Keys Evans helped lay the foundation for protests for years to follow. Her story is seldom told, which is why the book for young readers, Take a Seat—Make a Stand, is a great resource.

Author Amy Nathan self-published Take a Seat because commercial publishers told her they already had a book on Rosa Parks, or that Sarah Keys Evans wasn’t famous so nobody would be interested.


Related Resources

An interview with Sarah Keys and Amy Nathan on the Brian Lehrer Show on WYNC.

Take a Seat — Make a Stand: A Hero in the Family: The Story of Sarah Key Evans, a Civil Rights Hero Who Would Not Be Moved by Amy Nathan and Sarah K. Evans. A children’s book based on interviews with Sarah Keys.

Justice Older Than the Law: The Life of Dovey Johnson Roundtree by Katie McCabe and Dovey Johnson Roundtree. A biography of Dovey Johnson Roundtree, one of the lead attorneys on the case of Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company.

Transportation Protests: 1841 to 1992 by Julian Hipkins III and David Busch. Key individuals and organizations who took a stand against segregated transit.

Teach About the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Resources for teaching about the hidden history of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, including more stories of resistance to discrimination on transportation that pre-dated Rosa Parks.