July 31, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 136 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
SARAH KEYS EVANS PLAZA RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 136
(Extensions of Remarks - July 31, 2020)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E714-E715] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] SARAH KEYS EVANS PLAZA RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY ______ HON. G.K. BUTTERFIELD of north carolina in the house of representatives Friday, July 31, 2020 Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Madam Speaker, I rise to recognize the profound contributions of North Carolina's own, Sarah Keys Evans, a civil rights pioneer in the fight against racial segregation, and to celebrate the unveiling of the Sarah Keys Evans Plaza in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The unveiling Ceremony for the plaza will take place on Saturday, August 1, 2020; at the M.L. King Community Park. Before the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott that followed, there was Sarah Keys Evans. Her refusal to give up her seat on an interstate charter bus prompted the landmark court case, Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, in which the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed the segregation of Black passengers in buses traveling across state lines. [[Page E715]] On August 1, 1952, Women's Army Corps, Private Sarah Keys, boarded a bus in Trenton, New Jersey for her first home visit to North Carolina since joining the military. The bus she boarded would take her directly to her North Carolina destination without any required bus changes. Once the bus reached Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, a new driver took over the bus and as was custom, went through the bus and re- checked tickets. When he came to Ms. Keys, he told her to give up her seat to a white Marine who boarded the bus in Roanoke Rapids and move to the back of the bus. Tired from her long journey, Sarah refused. Frustrated with her persistence, the bus driver announced that all passengers would be moving to a different bus, but the woman who refused to change her seat, referring to Ms. Keys, would not be allowed to board the new bus and would not be allowed to continue the trip. Shortly thereafter, two police officers arrived at the bus terminal, took Sarah by the arms into a patrol car and drove her to the Roanoke Rapids police station. Because she refused to be subjected to unjust discrimination and prejudice, she was forced to stay in jail overnight and was fined before her release. Once Sarah arrived home and informed her family of the injustice she endured, her father encouraged her to seek legal action. The NAACP referred the family to attorney Dovey Johnson Roundtree, who brought her case before the Interstate Commerce Commission. After battling initial rejection by an examiner and various barriers, three years later, the case was settled in 1955. In Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, the ICC ruled in favor of Keys Evans. In their decision, the Commission found the Interstate Commerce Act forbids segregation as the practice subjects passengers to ``unjust discrimination, and undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage, in violation of Section 216(d) of the Interstate Commerce Act and is therefore unlawful.'' The fight for civil rights in America is a story heavy laden with unsung heroes and hidden figures who paved the way to progress. I am glad to know, that through the creation of the Sarah Keys Evans Plaza in Roanoke Rapids, the story of Sarah Keys Evans, an Army veteran and civil rights pioneer, will be displayed for all to see and learn from. It is my hope that her story of courage in the face of adversity will inspire others to never be afraid to stand up for what is right--even if that means staying in your seat. Madam Speaker, North Carolinian Sarah Keys Evans, now 91 years-old, is a living example that change is possible if we are willing to stand up and fight for what is right. I ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating the unveiling of the Sarah Keys Plaza in honor of a true civil rights pioneer. ____________________