White’s family confirmed to the newswire service that she died on Saturday.
White was working as a housekeeper in Baton Rouge in 1953 when she decided to sit in white-only-designated part of the city bus, which was the only seat available, according to the AP.
The bus driver ordered the 23-year-old White to get up from her seat, but she refused. The driver then called the police on White and another Black woman on the bus who sat beside her in solidarity.
Police arrived at the scene, along with the city's bus manager and civil rights activist Rev. T.J Jemison. Jemison mentioned to the bus driver the recently passed rule in Baton Rouge which desegregated buses, proving that White didn’t break the law.
City bus drivers went on strike to protest the rule and the rule was later overturned, which in turn led to a boycott in Baton Rouge by the Black community, according to the AP.
White’s protest previewed an even more famous boycott that was started in part by civil rights icon Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome on Monday paid tribute to White.
On June 15, 1953, she stood her ground and refused to forfeit her seat on a city bus as she was within her rights per an ordinance to desegregate buses.— Sharon Weston Broome (@MayorBroome) June 7, 2021
She was met with threats from the bus operator. Her fearlessness was instrumental in launching the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott.
“Martha White undoubtedly shaped our community in Baton Rouge, and communities across our nation. We honor her legacy today and every day,” Broome said in her series of tweets.