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*Sarah Keyes was born on this date in 1929. She is a retired Black nurse's aide and WAC Army officer.
From in Washington, N.C., Sarah Louise Keyes was the daughter of David Artist Keyes and Curley Vivian Wooten. One of seven children, she graduated locally from Mother of Mercy School in 1948. After graduation, Keyes worked in New Jersey and New York at a nursing home and a jewelry store. In 1951, she entered the WAC, and the Army and the WAC had officially integrated organizations. After completing her training at Ft. Lee, Virginia, and Ft. McClellan, Alabama, she was stationed in Texas and New Jersey.
On the evening of July 31, 1952, Keys departed her WAC post in Fort Dix, New Jersey, for her home of Washington, North Carolina; she boarded an integrated bus and transferred without incident in Washington, D.C., to a Carolina Trailways vehicle, taking the fifth seat from the front in the white section. When the bus pulled into the town of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, however, a new driver took the wheel and demanded that she comply with the carrier's Jim Crow regulation by moving to the so-called "colored section" in the back of the bus so that a white Marine could occupy her seat.
Keys refused to move, whereupon the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle, and barred Keys from boarding it. An altercation ensued, and Keys was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, jailed incommunicado overnight, convicted of the disorderly conduct charge, and fined $25.00.
She filed as a plaintiff in the landmark Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company civil rights case through her father's advice. This involved the Interstate Commerce Commission in response to a bus segregation complaint filed in 1953 by private Keys of the Women's Army Corps (WAC). This broke the Interstate Commerce Act by banning the segregation of Black passengers in buses traveling across state lines. Keyes was discharged from the Army. The case and its companion train desegregation case, NAACP v. St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, represented a milestone in the legal battle for civil rights. Sarah Keyes currently lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.