Martin Luther King and the Montgomery bus boycott for Leaving Cert History #625Lab
What was the contribution of martin luther king to the montgomery bus boycott and to other aspects of us life.
#625Lab – History , marked 85/100, detailed feedback at the very bottom. You may also like: Leaving Cert History Guide (€).
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a well-known civil rights leader and activist who had a great deal of influence on American society in the 1950s and 1960s. He contributed greatly to the events of the Montgomery bus boycott and to other aspects of US life through his non-violent actions. In 1954 in America, the US Supreme Court removed the legal basis for segregation in education. However, in the southern states Jim Crow laws continued to enforce segregation and discrimination in housing, transport and various public facilities.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a southern city with a long history of racial tension, segregated seating was present on buses. African American people could only sit at the back for the bus and had to stand up for a white people if the front seats were occupied. On the evening of 1 December 1955, an African American seamstress Rosa Parks got on a bus in downtown Montgomery. When asked to move to let a white person sit down, she refused. The police were called and minutes later, Rosa Parks was arrested. Parks was well known and respected in the African American community in Montgomery, and she has been secretary of the Montgomery NAACP. From jail she phoned Daniel Nixon, leader of the NAACP in Alabama. He agreed to pay her bail and decided that they could go the Supreme Court with this case, and boycott the bus. Nixon knew that challenging racism in the supreme courts would require the support of other African American leaders. He contacted the reverend Ralph Abernathy and the reverend Martin Luther King, a popular young baptist minister. King’s popularity in the community gave this case credibility.
A one day bus boycott for December 5, 1955 was organised by the women’s political committee, the day parks was due in court. Meanwhile, threats of violence against bus drivers were present in the African American community. In order to prevent violence, on 2 December Nixon , Abernathy and King called a meeting in King’s church. Over 40 religious and civic leaders from the African American community agreed to support the boycott. Their message was one of non co-operation. Organisers hoped that 60% of the community would back the boycott but it turned out to be almost 100%. King attended Rosa Parks’ trial that day where she was found guilty, and fined $14. Nixon called for an appeal.
The elders of the boycott met up and set up a permanent organisation for the boycott as they had already decided that it should last more than one day. They called it the Montgomery improvement association. Martin Luther King was unanimously elected leader of the group. That evening he addressed a huge crowd at a meeting held by the MIA. He urged them to follow non-violent Christian principles, to use persuasion, not coercion. The MIA wanted segregation on buses to end, black people to be treated with courtesy by bus drivers and for black drivers to be employed on the buses. King closed the meeting by calling on all those in favour to stand. Everybody stood. This was the grinning of King’s important contribution to the Montgomery bus boycott.
King was a dedicated and popular minister at the Dexter Anne Baptist church in Montgomery and was active in the local branch of the NAACP. He was young, energetic and a brilliant public speaker. King and the other leaders held meetings to plan strategy and set up a transportation committee to raise funds and organise alternative transport for African Americans. After Christmas 1955, when it became clear that the African American community were determined it continue the boycott, some white people began to use measures aimed at forcing them to give up. On 22 January the city announced that the boycott was over and that a settlement had been reached. King shut down these rumours by responding quickly and telling the African Americans to ignore these reports. It was quick thinking like this by King that ensured that the bus boycott was a success. He was also arrested for breaking an old law which prohibited boycotts. His arrest and trial made headlines and international news, bringing more publicity to the movement.
On 13 December, the US Supreme Court declared that segregated seating on public buses was unconstitutional. The Supreme court’s decision was to come into operation on 20 December 1956. On 21 December , in a symbolic gesture, King and a white minister, Glenn Smiley, sat together in what was previously a whites-only section on a bus. King and his associates had successfully made segregation on public transport illegal. He had successfully contributed to both the Montgomery bus boycott and to the Black Civil rights movement in America.
In 1957, King helped to set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Its aim was to continue working for change, using non-violent tactics. In 1958 the SCLC began its crusade to double the number of African- American voters in the South by 1960. In 1960, some African-American students began ‘sit-ins’ at segregated lunch counters. King supported them and was arrested in October 1960. This brought publicity to the protest. By the end of the year the peaceful sit-in campaign by over 50,000 young people had succeeded in desegregating public facilities in more than 100 cities in the south.
In April 1963, King organised a protest march in Birmingham, Alabama – a big industrial city known for its racial prejudice. The marchers filled the streets day after day, singing ‘We shall Overcome’. King was arrested, and his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ was one of the most effective documents of the civil rights movements. On 8 May, six thousand African-American children marched through Birmingham. On the following day the police chief, Eugene O’Connor, ordered is men to use water houses, electric cattle prods and dogs against the protesters. Crucially, these events were broadcast live on national television and shocked audiences, winning widespread white support for King. The president sent officials to negotiate with he city authorities. The violence ended and the protestors were granted most of their demands. Kennedy brought in a civil Rights Bill providing for an end to all discrimination and an extension of voting rights for African Americans. This bill was delayed by congress, but King still contributed greatly to the progression of civil rights for African Americans with this protest march.
One of Martin Luther’s most famous contributions to the Black civil rights movement occurred in August of 1963, when King led a march on Washington, D.C to demonstrate for ‘jobs and freedom’. Over 200,00 protestors joined the march and he made his famous ‘I have a dream speech’ . Kennedy feared that the march would make it difficult to get his civil rights bill passed but it was peaceful and orderly, and helped to get the bill passed a year later. The bill was passed in 1964, and it banned discrimination in all public accommodation, outlawed job discrimination and reduced the power of local voter registration boards to disqualify African Americans from voting. This was yet another victory for King and the movement. Martin Luther King condemned the Vietnam war. King said that the war wastes lives and misuses American resources. The Vietnam war went against hi non-violent agenda. This public condemnation contributed to public outcry concerning the war.
In 1964, small-scale violence erupted in Harlem. In August 1965, five days after the civil rights bill was signed by the President, a huge riot broke out in Watts, an African-American ghetto in Los Angeles. For six days, looting and fighting between African-American youths and police raged. The riot greatly upset King and he moved the SCLC headquarters to Chicago, determined to shift his focus from the south to the northern ghettos and the problems of jobs and housing. During the summers of 1966 and 1967, further rioting took place in the north . In 1967, 83 people were killed in 164 different riots, causing over $100 million in damages to property. The civil rights movement became divided as king appealed for calm and denounced the violence and insisted that militants only represented a minority of African Americans. In April 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His death seemed to destroy any hope of resolving the race problem.
Martin Luther King made enormous contributions to both the Montgomery bus boycott and to US life by progressing the Civil rights movement through non-violent means. He started a progression towards equality that ultimately resulted in the legal equality between black and white people in America in today’s society. He is remembered to this day as an iconic figure in the civil rights movement , both in America and internationally.
Feedback : This essay is a really good length and answers the question well. Your paragraphs are detailed and full of relevant historical fact, with lots of statistics. You use a few short quotations, but it would be better to incorporate a few more. Your introduction does its job well and the conclusion is good as it doesn’t just summarise, it also ties the topic into the present day. The way you use the order of importance in some of your key sentences, like “ One of Martin Luther’s most famous contributions ”, is good as it adds an extra layer to your judgement.
Cumulative Mark: For your cumulative mark, this would definitely achieve the maximum 60 out of 60 marks, as there are enough well-written paragraphs to accumulate this mark.
Overall Evaluation Mark: For Overall Evaluation, I’d give this about 25 marks out of 40. This is a really good mark, but you can improve it if you want by including some more quotation, doing some extra reading or by providing some more detailed analysis of the facts you present.
Total Mark: 85/100
Why did the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1956) take place, how was it carried out, and to what extent was it successful? (2015)
#625Lab – History , marked 90/100, detailed feedback at the very bottom. You may also like: Leaving Cert History Guide (€).
Although the American Constitution of 1791 declared that “all men were created equal… they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights”, this was a far cry from the reality reflected in society in the first half of the twentieth century. This was particularly true for states like Alabama in the Deep South where Jim Crow laws were enforced, which promoted a “separate but equal” treatment of the races. Alabama’s capital was Montgomery, a city with 50,000 blacks and 70,000 whites. The city’s bus company followed the pattern of segregation and harsh penalties were enforced on anyone who dared to question the status quo. In the middle of the twentieth century, however, this would change as a result of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a tremendous statement of defiance which would change the face of America.
It could be argued that the origins of the boycott have their roots in 1943, when a black seamstress named Rosa Parks paid for her bus fare and then watched the bus drive off as she tried to enter the bus through the blacks-only rear door. Like many black women at the time, Parks was working in a low-paid job and was now starting to question the treatment her race was receiving. The seed had been sown for the next episode in her career as an activist.
On Thursday 1st December 1955, she boarded a city bus on the way home from work and when the bus became full with white passengers and the driver demanded that four black passengers move back one row to make room, Parks refused. She iconically said “I don’t think I should have to” before being promptly arrested. Parks was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, so naturally E.D. Nixon, the organisation’s leader, took an interest in her case. He had been looking for somebody to test out his boundaries in the courts in the hope of getting Jim Crow laws declared as constitutional. He had been curious about the similar case of fifteen year-old Claudette Colvin months before, but when it was revealed that she was pregnant he lost interest as he needed to be certain that he “had somebody [he] could win with”. On the other hand, Parks was respectable, had been educated at the Laboratory School in Alabama State College and attended church regularly. After discussing the risks with her husband and mother, Rosa Parks agreed to be the figurehead of the campaign. This episode catalysed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The boycott was organised by the MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) with the aid of the Womens’ Political Council of Montgomery, led by Jo Ann Robinson, and the black ministers of Montgomery such as Martin Luther King. King was a great orator, and it was written that “as King spoke in a singsong cadence, his followers would cry and clap and sway, carried away by the magic of his oratory. With his help, 35,000 leaflets advertising the boycott were distributed at services the next Sunday.
In court on Monday the 5th of December Rosa Parks was fined $10 for civil disobedience and this coincided with the start of the boycott. It was met with great success, with most of the city’s black population complying. It was decided that the boycott would continue for as long as the City Council kept withholding the following: employment of black drivers on the buses, allocation of seats on a first come, first served basis, and the right to courteous treatment by drivers for all passengers, regardless of colour.
The leaders of the boycott collected money to buy station wagons for a private taxi service. Some of the money came from local black workers, the NAACP, the United Auto Workers’ Union and the Montgomery Jewish community, among other minorities. A carpool system was organised whereby people gathered at churches and waited to be collected by others to get to work in order to undermine the attitude of the boycott’s critics, who were adamant that the buses would be full again the next rainy morning. However, the boycotters’ tenacity was clearly underestimated and the boycott continued for a total of 381 days, until December 21st 1956, This was thanks to public donations, dedication and $30,000 being raised by the church.
The boycotters met fierce resistance. The Ku Klux Klan became active and the likes of burning crosses were planted in King’s garden. Acid was poured on the cars of the boycotters and the homes of King and other leaders were bombed. King was arrested for doing thirty miles per hour in a twenty five miles per hour zone and in February 1956, eighty nine blacks including King were arrested under an old law banning boycotting. Twenty four ministers were also arrested throughout the year for cooperation.
At the same time the NAACP’s lawsuit was advancing through the courts, and on the 13th of November 1956 the Supreme Court in Washington DC ruled that the segregation laws were unconstitutional. The boycott was eventually called off and on the 21st of December 1956, King and his supporters boarded a Greyhound bus for the first time in 381 days. For the first time ever they sat at the front. Their tenacity had earned them victory.
The boycott was classified as a roaring success, not only because the boycotters achieved their aims with regard to Rosa Parks’ specific case, but also because the boycott ended segregation on Montgomery’s buses completely. It also introduced the idea of non-violent protest, an approach take that would later be used by King and others in order to progress the civil rights movement even further. The episode paved the way for the likes of the freedom riders and the lunch counter sit-ins. It also gave rise to institutions like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which would be instrumental in the next steps toward an egalitarian society. Overall it was a massive success that changed the face of American society in a new and unprecedented way. In the words of Joseph Lowery, “the Montgomery Bus Boycott was an era of self-determination”.
Feedback : This is a really great essay in that it answers the question without being repetitive. It shows a good understanding of the material, and you provide good commentary as well, such as making comments on the tenacity of the boycotters. You also make good use of quotations. Your introduction is good as it gives some background as well as laying out the topic of the essay, and your conclusion is strong too as it is more than just a summary of the essay. For future essays that require you to answer several parts, maybe watch out to be clear in what part you’re answering with each paragraph and try to ensure that all sections are given somewhat equal attention.
Cumulative Mark : while this is a really well-written essay, the fact that there are only 9 paragraphs means that you might not hit the maximum of 60 cumulative marks – you would need at least 6 marks on each paragraph, and while you could achieve this, it would be safest to add an extra paragraph or two just to be certain that you can hit 60. It is possible that this particular essay could achieve 60/60.
Overall Evaluation : for Overall Evaluation, I’d give this around 30/40 as your treatment of the question is very good.
Total : 90/100
- Post author: Martina
- Post published: December 21, 2018
- Post category: #625Lab History / History
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Course: US history > Unit 8
- Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement
- African American veterans and the Civil Rights Movement
- Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
- Emmett Till
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
- "Massive Resistance" and the Little Rock Nine
- The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
- SNCC and CORE
- Black Power
- The Civil Rights Movement
- On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks , a black seamstress, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat so that white passengers could sit in it.
- Rosa Parks’s arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott , during which the black citizens of Montgomery refused to ride the city’s buses in protest over the bus system’s policy of racial segregation. It was the first mass-action of the modern civil rights era, and served as an inspiration to other civil rights activists across the nation.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. , a Baptist minister who endorsed nonviolent civil disobedience, emerged as leader of the Boycott.
- Following a November 1956 ruling by the Supreme Court that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional, the bus boycott ended successfully. It had lasted 381 days.
Rosa Parks’s arrest
Origins of the bus boycott, the boycott succeeds, what do you think, want to join the conversation.
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Montgomery Bus Boycott
By: History.com Editors
Updated: January 10, 2023 | Original: February 3, 2010
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a civil rights protest during which African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest segregated seating. The boycott took place from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, and is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. Four days before the boycott began, Rosa Parks , an African American woman, was arrested and fined for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white man. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system, and one of the leaders of the boycott, a young pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. , emerged as a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement .
Rosa Parks' Bus
In 1955, African Americans were still required by a Montgomery, Alabama , city ordinance to sit in the back half of city buses and to yield their seats to white riders if the front half of the bus, reserved for whites, was full.
But on December 1, 1955, African American seamstress Rosa Parks was commuting home on Montgomery’s Cleveland Avenue bus from her job at a local department store. She was seated in the front row of the “colored section.” When the white seats filled, the driver, J. Fred Blake, asked Parks and three others to vacate their seats. The other Black riders complied, but Parks refused.
She was arrested and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. This was not Parks’ first encounter with Blake. In 1943, she had paid her fare at the front of a bus he was driving, then exited so she could re-enter through the back door, as required. Blake pulled away before she could re-board the bus.
Did you know? Nine months before Rosa Parks' arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in Montgomery for the same act. The city's Black leaders prepared to protest, until it was discovered Colvin was pregnant and deemed an inappropriate symbol for their cause.
Although Parks has sometimes been depicted as a woman with no history of civil rights activism at the time of her arrest, she and her husband Raymond were, in fact, active in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP ), and Parks served as its secretary.
Upon her arrest, Parks called E.D. Nixon, a prominent Black leader, who bailed her out of jail and determined she would be an upstanding and sympathetic plaintiff in a legal challenge of the segregation ordinance. African American leaders decided to attack the ordinance using other tactics as well.
The Women’s Political Council (WPC), a group of Black women working for civil rights, began circulating flyers calling for a boycott of the bus system on December 5, the day Parks would be tried in municipal court. The boycott was organized by WPC President Jo Ann Robinson.
Montgomery’s African Americans Mobilize
As news of the boycott spread, African American leaders across Montgomery (Alabama’s capital city) began lending their support. Black ministers announced the boycott in church on Sunday, December 4, and the Montgomery Advertiser , a general-interest newspaper, published a front-page article on the planned action.
Approximately 40,000 Black bus riders—the majority of the city’s bus riders—boycotted the system the next day, December 5. That afternoon, Black leaders met to form the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The group elected Martin Luther King Jr. , the 26-year-old-pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church , as its president, and decided to continue the boycott until the city met its demands.
Initially, the demands did not include changing the segregation laws; rather, the group demanded courtesy, the hiring of Black drivers, and a first-come, first-seated policy, with whites entering and filling seats from the front and African Americans from the rear.
Ultimately, however, a group of five Montgomery women, represented by attorney Fred D. Gray and the NAACP, sued the city in U.S. District Court, seeking to have the busing segregation laws totally invalidated.
Although African Americans represented at least 75 percent of Montgomery’s bus ridership, the city resisted complying with the protester’s demands. To ensure the boycott could be sustained, Black leaders organized carpools, and the city’s African American taxi drivers charged only 10 cents—the same price as bus fare—for African American riders.
Many Black residents chose simply to walk to work or other destinations. Black leaders organized regular mass meetings to keep African American residents mobilized around the boycott.
Integration at Last
On June 5, 1956, a Montgomery federal court ruled that any law requiring racially segregated seating on buses violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution . That amendment, adopted in 1868 following the U.S. Civil War , guarantees all citizens—regardless of race—equal rights and equal protection under state and federal laws.
The city appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court , which upheld the lower court’s decision on December 20, 1956. Montgomery’s buses were integrated on December 21, 1956, and the boycott ended. It had lasted 381 days.
Bus Boycott Meets With Violence
Integration, however, met with significant resistance and even violence. While the buses themselves were integrated, Montgomery maintained segregated bus stops. Snipers began firing into buses, and one shooter shattered both legs of a pregnant African American passenger.
In January 1957, four Black churches and the homes of prominent Black leaders were bombed; a bomb at King’s house was defused. On January 30, 1957, the Montgomery police arrested seven bombers; all were members of the Ku Klux Klan , a white supremacist group. The arrests largely brought an end to the busing-related violence.
Boycott Puts Martin Luther King Jr. in Spotlight
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was significant on several fronts. First, it is widely regarded as the earliest mass protest on behalf of civil rights in the United States, setting the stage for additional large-scale actions outside the court system to bring about fair treatment for African Americans.
Second, in his leadership of the MIA, Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a prominent national leader of the civil rights movement while also solidifying his commitment to nonviolent resistance. King’s approach remained a hallmark of the civil rights movement throughout the 1960s.
Shortly after the boycott’s end, he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a highly influential civil rights organization that worked to end segregation throughout the South. The SCLC was instrumental in the civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963, and the March on Washington in August of that same year, during which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech .
The boycott also brought national and international attention to the civil rights struggles occurring in the United States, as more than 100 reporters visited Montgomery during the boycott to profile the effort and its leaders.
Rosa Parks, while shying from the spotlight throughout her life, remained an esteemed figure in the history of American civil rights activism. In 1999, the U.S. Congress awarded her its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.
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Montgomery Bus Boycott
December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956
Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1 December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) coordinated the boycott, and its president, Martin Luther King, Jr., became a prominent civil rights leader as international attention focused on Montgomery. The bus boycott demonstrated the potential for nonviolent mass protest to successfully challenge racial segregation and served as an example for other southern campaigns that followed. In Stride Toward Freedom , King’s 1958 memoir of the boycott, he declared the real meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott to be the power of a growing self-respect to animate the struggle for civil rights.
The roots of the bus boycott began years before the arrest of Rosa Parks. The Women’s Political Council (WPC), a group of black professionals founded in 1946, had already turned their attention to Jim Crow practices on the Montgomery city buses. In a meeting with Mayor W. A. Gayle in March 1954, the council's members outlined the changes they sought for Montgomery’s bus system: no one standing over empty seats; a decree that black individuals not be made to pay at the front of the bus and enter from the rear; and a policy that would require buses to stop at every corner in black residential areas, as they did in white communities. When the meeting failed to produce any meaningful change, WPC president Jo Ann Robinson reiterated the council’s requests in a 21 May letter to Mayor Gayle, telling him, “There has been talk from twenty-five or more local organizations of planning a city-wide boycott of buses” (“A Letter from the Women’s Political Council”).
A year after the WPC’s meeting with Mayor Gayle, a 15-year-old named Claudette Colvin was arrested for challenging segregation on a Montgomery bus. Seven months later, 18-year-old Mary Louise Smith was arrested for refusing to yield her seat to a white passenger. Neither arrest, however, mobilized Montgomery’s black community like that of Rosa Parks later that year.
King recalled in his memoir that “Mrs. Parks was ideal for the role assigned to her by history,” and because “her character was impeccable and her dedication deep-rooted” she was “one of the most respected people in the Negro community” (King, 44). Robinson and the WPC responded to Parks’ arrest by calling for a one-day protest of the city’s buses on 5 December 1955. Robinson prepared a series of leaflets at Alabama State College and organized groups to distribute them throughout the black community. Meanwhile, after securing bail for Parks with Clifford and Virginia Durr , E. D. Nixon , past leader of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), began to call local black leaders, including Ralph Abernathy and King, to organize a planning meeting. On 2 December, black ministers and leaders met at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and agreed to publicize the 5 December boycott. The planned protest received unexpected publicity in the weekend newspapers and in radio and television reports.
On 5 December, 90 percent of Montgomery’s black citizens stayed off the buses. That afternoon, the city’s ministers and leaders met to discuss the possibility of extending the boycott into a long-term campaign. During this meeting the MIA was formed, and King was elected president. Parks recalled: “The advantage of having Dr. King as president was that he was so new to Montgomery and to civil rights work that he hadn’t been there long enough to make any strong friends or enemies” (Parks, 136).
That evening, at a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church , the MIA voted to continue the boycott. King spoke to several thousand people at the meeting: “I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong.… If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong” ( Papers 3:73 ). After unsuccessful talks with city commissioners and bus company officials, on 8 December the MIA issued a formal list of demands: courteous treatment by bus operators; first-come, first-served seating for all, with blacks seating from the rear and whites from the front; and black bus operators on predominately black routes.
The demands were not met, and Montgomery’s black residents stayed off the buses through 1956, despite efforts by city officials and white citizens to defeat the boycott. After the city began to penalize black taxi drivers for aiding the boycotters, the MIA organized a carpool. Following the advice of T. J. Jemison , who had organized a carpool during a 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge, the MIA developed an intricate carpool system of about 300 cars. Robert Hughes and others from the Alabama Council for Human Relations organized meetings between the MIA and city officials, but no agreements were reached.
In early 1956, the homes of King and E. D. Nixon were bombed. King was able to calm the crowd that gathered at his home by declaring: “Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place” ( Papers 3:115 ). City officials obtained injunctions against the boycott in February 1956, and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr. Despite this resistance, the boycott continued.
Although most of the publicity about the protest was centered on the actions of black ministers, women played crucial roles in the success of the boycott. Women such as Robinson, Johnnie Carr , and Irene West sustained the MIA committees and volunteer networks. Mary Fair Burks of the WPC also attributed the success of the boycott to “the nameless cooks and maids who walked endless miles for a year to bring about the breach in the walls of segregation” (Burks, “Trailblazers,” 82). In his memoir, King quotes an elderly woman who proclaimed that she had joined the boycott not for her own benefit but for the good of her children and grandchildren (King, 78).
National coverage of the boycott and King’s trial resulted in support from people outside Montgomery. In early 1956 veteran pacifists Bayard Rustin and Glenn E. Smiley visited Montgomery and offered King advice on the application of Gandhian techniques and nonviolence to American race relations. Rustin, Ella Baker , and Stanley Levison founded In Friendship to raise funds in the North for southern civil rights efforts, including the bus boycott. King absorbed ideas from these proponents of nonviolent direct action and crafted his own syntheses of Gandhian principles of nonviolence. He said: “Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi in India showed it could work” (Rowland, “2,500 Here Hail”). Other followers of Gandhian ideas such as Richard Gregg , William Stuart Nelson , and Homer Jack wrote the MIA offering support.
On 5 June 1956, the federal district court ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional, and in November 1956 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Browder v. Gayle and struck down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses. The court’s decision came the same day that King and the MIA were in circuit court challenging an injunction against the MIA carpools. Resolved not to end the boycott until the order to desegregate the buses actually arrived in Montgomery, the MIA operated without the carpool system for a month. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, and on 20 December 1956 King called for the end of the boycott; the community agreed. The next morning, he boarded an integrated bus with Ralph Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Glenn Smiley. King said of the bus boycott: “We came to see that, in the long run, it is more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. So … we decided to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery” ( Papers 3:486 ). King’s role in the bus boycott garnered international attention, and the MIA’s tactics of combining mass nonviolent protest with Christian ethics became the model for challenging segregation in the South.
Joe Azbell, “Blast Rocks Residence of Bus Boycott Leader,” 31 January 1956, in Papers 3:114–115 .
Baker to King, 24 February 1956, in Papers 3:139 .
Burks, “Trailblazers: Women in the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” in Women in the Civil Rights Movement , ed. Crawford et al., 1990.
“Don’t Ride the Bus,” 2 December 1955, in Papers 3:67 .
U. J. Fields, Minutes of Montgomery Improvement Association Founding Meeting, 5 December 1955, in Papers 3:68–70 .
Gregg to King, 2 April 1956, in Papers 3:211–212 .
Indictment, State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr., et al. , 21 February 1956, in Papers 3:132–133 .
Introduction, in Papers 3:3–7 ; 17–21 ; 29 .
Jack to King, 16 March 1956, in Papers 3:178–179 .
Judgment and Sentence of the Court, State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr. , 22 March 1956, in Papers 3:197 .
King, Statement on Ending the Bus Boycott, 20 December 1956, in Papers 3:485–487 .
King, Stride Toward Freedom , 1958.
King, Testimony in State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr. , 22 March 1956, in Papers 3:183–196 .
King to the National City Lines, Inc., 8 December 1955, in Papers 3:80–81 .
“A Letter from the Women’s Political Council to the Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama,” in Eyes on the Prize , ed. Carson et al., 1991.
MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 5 December 1955, in Papers 3:71–79 .
Nelson to King, 21 March 1956, in Papers 3:182–183 .
Parks and Haskins, Rosa Parks , 1992.
Robinson, Montgomery Bus Boycott , 1987.
Stanley Rowland, Jr., “2,500 Here Hail Boycott Leader,” New York Times , 26 March 1956.
Rustin to King, 23 December 1956, in Papers 3:491–494 .
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2 A Case: The Montgomery Bus Boycott
- Published: May 2022
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The Montgomery bus boycott of 1955–1956 was a successful social movement that exemplified civic deliberation and action. The organizers faced problems of collective action, such as free-riding, path-dependence, oligarchy, boundary problems, and principal/agent conflicts; problems of discourse, such as ideology and propaganda; injustice based on identity distinctions; and human cognitive limitations, such as implicit bias and motivated reasoning. They built alternative institutions that effectively challenged white supremacy. They made choices regarding objectives, tactics, targets, and rhetoric that can be debated.
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The montgomery bus boycott.
Years before the boycott, Dexter Avenue minister Vernon Johns sat down in the "whites-only" section of a city bus. When the driver ordered him off the bus, Johns urged other passengers to join him. On March 2, 1955, a black teenager named Claudette Colvin dared to defy bus segregation laws and was forcibly removed from another Montgomery bus.
Nine months later, Rosa Parks - a 42-year-old seamstress and NAACP member- wanted a guaranteed seat on the bus for her ride home after working as a seamstress in a Montgomery department store. After work, she saw a crowded bus stop. Knowing that she would not be able to sit, Parks went to a local drugstore to buy an electric heating pad. After shopping, Parks entered the less crowded Cleveland Avenue bus and was able to find an open seat in the 'colored' section of the bus for her ride home.
Despite having segregated seating arrangements on public buses, it was routine in Montgomery for bus drivers to force African Americans out of their seats for a white passenger. There was very little African Americans could do to stop the practice because bus drivers in Montgomery had the legal ability to arrest passengers for refusing to obey their orders. After a few stops on Parks’ ride home, the white seating section of the bus became full. The driver demanded that Parks give up her seat on the bus so a white passenger could sit down. Parks refused to surrender her seat and was arrested for violating the bus driver’s orders.
Organizing the Boycott
Montgomery's black citizens reacted decisively to the incident. By December 2, schoolteacher Jo Ann Robinson had mimeographed and delivered 50,000 protest leaflets around town. E.D. Nixon, a local labor leader, organized a December 4 meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church , where local black leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)to spearhead a boycott and negotiate with the bus company.
Over 70% of the cities bus patrons were African American and the one-day boycott was 90% effective. The MIA elected as their president a new but charismatic preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. Under his leadership, the boycott continued with astonishing success. The MIA established a carpool for African Americans. Over 200 people volunteered their car for a car pool and roughly 100 pickup stations operated within the city. To help fund the car pool, the MIA held mass gatherings at various African American churches where donations were collected and members heard news about the success of the boycott.
Roots in Brown v Board
Fred Gray, member and lawyer of the MIA, organized a legal challenge to the city ordinances requiring segregation on Montgomery buses. Before 1954, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision ruled that segregation was constitutional as long as it was equal. Yet, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawed segregation in public schools. Therefore, it opened the door to challenge segregation in other areas as well, such as city busing. Gray gathered Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith to challenge the constitutionality of the city busing laws. All four of the women had been previously mistreated on the city buses because of their race. The case took the name Browder v. Gayle. Gray argued their 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the law was violated, the same argument made in the Brown v. Board of Education case.
On June 5, 1956, a three-judge U.S. District Court ruled 2-1 that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. The majority cited Brown v. Board of Education as a legal precedent for desegregation and concluded, “In fact, we think that Plessy v. Ferguson has been impliedly, though not explicitly, overruled,…there is now no rational basis upon which the separate but equal doctrine can be validly applied to public carrier transportation...”
The city of Montgomery appealed the U.S. District Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and continued to practice segregation on city busing.
For nearly a year, buses were virtually empty in Montgomery. Boycott supporters walked to work--as many as eight miles a day--or they used a sophisticated system of carpools with volunteer drivers and dispatchers. Some took station-wagon "rolling taxis" donated by local churches.
Montgomery City Lines lost between 30,000 and 40,000 bus fares each day during the boycott. The bus company that operated the city busing had suffered financially from the seven month long boycott and the city became desperate to end the boycott. Local police began to harass King and other MIA leaders. Car pool drivers were arrested and taken to court for petty traffic violations. Despite all the harassment, the boycott remained over 90% successful. African Americans took pride in the inconveniences caused by limited transportation. One elderly African American woman replied that, “My soul has been tired for a long time. Now my feet are tired, and my soul is resting.” The promise of equality declared in Brown v. Board of Education for Montgomery African Americans helped motivate them to continue the boycott.
The company reluctantly desegregated its buses only after November 13, 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled Alabama's bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
Beginning a Movement
The Montgomery bus boycott began the modern Civil Rights Movement and established Martin Luther King Jr. as its leader. King instituted the practice of massive non-violent civil disobedience to injustice, which he learned from studying Gandhi. Montgomery, Alabama became the model of massive non-violent civil disobedience that was practiced in such places as Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis. Even though the Civil Rights Movement was a social and political movement, it was influenced by the legal foundation established from Brown v. Board of Education.
Brown overturned the long held practice of the “separate but equal” doctrine established by Plessy. From then on, any legal challenge on segregation cited Brown as a precedent for desegregation. Without Brown, it is impossible to know what would have happened in Montgomery during the boycott.
The boycott would have been difficult to continue because the city would have won its challenge to shut down the car pool. Without the car pool and without any legal precedent to end segregation, the legal process could have lasted years. Those involved in the boycott might have lost hope and given up with the lack of progress. However, the precedent established by Brown gave boycotters hope that a legal challenge would successfully end segregation on city buses. Therefore, the influence of Brown on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement is undeniable. King described Brown’s influence as, “To all men of good will, this decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of colored people throughout the world who had had a dim vision of the promised land of freedom and justice . . . this decision came as a legal and sociological deathblow to an evil that had occupied the throne of American life for several decades.”
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Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Social Movements — Montgomery Bus Boycott
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Analyzing The Efficacy of The Bus Boycott in Montgomery, United States
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Causes and Effects of The Montgomery Bus Boycott
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An Individual's Power to Change The Society: American Activists
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The Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Montgomery bus boycott changed the way people lived and reacted to each other. The American civil rights movement began a long time ago, as early as the seventeenth century, with blacks and whites all protesting slavery together. The peak of the civil rights movement came in the 1950’s starting with the successful bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama. The civil rights movement was lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , who preached nonviolence and love for your enemy. “Love your enemies, we do not mean to love them as a friend or intimate. We mean what the Greeks called agape-a disinterested love for all mankind.
This love is our regulating ideal and beloved community our ultimate goal. As we struggle here in Montgomery, we are cognizant that we have cosmic companionship and that the universe bends toward justice. We are moving from the black night of segregation to the bright daybreak of joy, from the midnight of Egyptian captivity to the glittering light of Canaan freedom” explained Dr. King. In the Cradle of the Confederacy, life for the white and the colored citizens was completely segregated.
Segregated schools, restaurants, public water fountains, amusement parks, and city buses were part of everyday life in Montgomery, Alabama. “Every person operating a bus line should provide equal accommodations… in such a manner as to separate the white people from Negroes. ” On Montgomery’s buses, black passengers were required by city law to sit in the back of the segregated bus. Negroes were required to pay their fare at the front of the bus, then get off and reboard from the rear of the bus. The front row seats were reserved for white people, which left the back of the bus or no man’s land for the black’s. There was no sign declaring the seating arrangements of the buses, but everyone knew them.
The Montgomery bus boycott started one of the greatest fights for civil rights in the history of America. Here in the old capital of the Confederacy, ” inspired by one women’s courage; mobilized and organized by scores of grass- roots leaders in churches, community organizations, and political clubs; called to new visions of their best possibilities by a young black preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. , a people was reawakening to its destiny. ” In 1953, the black community of Baton Rouge, Louisiana successfully petitioned their city council to end segregated seating on public buses.
The ew ordinance allowed the city buses to be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, with the blacks still beginning their seating at the rear of the bus. The bus drivers, who were all white, ignored the new ordinance and continued to save seats in front of the bus for white passengers. In an effort to demand that the city follow the new ordinance, the black community staged a one-day boycott of Baton Rouge’s buses. By the end of the day, Louisiana’s attorney general decided that the new ordinance was illegal and ruled that the bus drivers did not have to change the seating arrangements on the buses.
Three months later a second bus boycott was started by Reverend T. J. Jemison. The new boycott lasted about one week, and yet it forced the city officials to compromise. The compromise was to change the seating on the buses to first-come, first-served seating with two side seats up front reserved for whites, and one long seat in the back for the blacks. The bus boycott in Baton Rouge was one of the first times a community of blacks had organized direct action against segregation and won. The victory in Baton Rouge was a small one in comparison to other civil right battles and victories.
The hard work of Reverend Jemison and other organizers of the boycott, had far reaching implications on a movement that was just starting to take root in America. In 1954 the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka descion by the Supreme Court overshadowed Baton Rouge, but the ideas and lessons were not forgotten. They were soon used 400 miles away in Montgomery, Alabama, where the most important boycott of the civil rights movement was about to begin.
The idea of separate but equal started in 1896 with a case called Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U. S. 537 (1896). On June 2, 1896 Homer Adolph Plessy, who was ne-eighth Negro and appeared to be white, boarded and took a vacant seat in a coach reserved for white people on the East Louisiana railroad in New Orleans bound for Covington, Louisiana. The conductor ordered Plessy to move to a coach reserved for colored people, but Plessy refused. With the aid of a police officer , Plessy was forcibly ejected from the train, locked up in the New Orleans jail, and was taken before Judge Ferguson on the charge of violating Louisiana’s state segregation laws.
In affirming Plessy’s conviction, the Supreme Court of Louisiana upheld the state law. Plessy then took the case to he Supreme Court of America on a writ of error ( an older form of appeal that was abolished in 1929) saying that Louisiana’s segregation law was ” “unconstitutional as a denial of the Thirteenth Amendment and equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. ” The Plessy v. Ferguson case descion stated that separate but equal was fine as long as the accommodations were equal in standard.
Case after case the “separate but equal ” doctrine was followed but not reexamined. The equal part of the doctrine had no real meaning, because the Supreme Court refused to look beyond any lower court holdings to find if the egregated facilities for Negroes were equal to those for whites. Many Negro accommodations were said to be equal when in fact they were definitely inferior. The separate but equal doctrine “is one of the outstanding myths of American history for it is almost always true that while indeed separate, these facilities are far from equal.
Throughout the segregated public institutions, Negroes have been denied equal share of tax supported service and facilities ” stated President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1947. In Topeka, Kansas the Brown’s, a Negro family, lived only four blacks from the white Sumner Elementary School. Linda Carol Brown, an eight year old girl had to attend a segregated school twenty-one blocks from her home because Kansas’s state segregation laws allowed cities to segregate Negro and white students in public elementary schools.
Oliver Brown and twelve other parents of Negro children asked that their children be admitted to the all-white Sumner School, which was much closer to home. The principle refused them admission, and the parents filed a suit in a federal district court against the Topeka Board of Education. The suit contended that the refusal to admit the children to the school was a denial of he “equal protection clause ” of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The descion of the principle lead to the birth of the most influential and important case of the Twentieth Century, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954). The federal district court was sympathetic to the Negro cause and agreed that segregation in public schools had a negative effect on Negro children, but the court felt binded by the descion in Plessy v. Ferguson, and refused to declare segregation unconstitutional. Mr. Brown then took the case directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. Other cases involving school segregation were making there way to the Supreme Court from three different states-Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina-and the District of Columbia.
All of the cases arrived around the same time as the Brown case. The cases all raised the same issue, and the state consolidated them under Brown v. Board of Education. The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is a restriction that applies only to the states, so the case from the District of Columbia was “rested on the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment which is applicable to the Federal government “. The case was called Bolling v. Sharpe, 349 U. S. 294 (1955), and had the same outcome as the Brown case.
In front of the Supreme Court the arguments against segregation were presented by Thurgood Marshall, council for the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP is an organization which had directed five cases through the courts and which had won many legal cases for American Negroes. The states relied on primarily Plessy v. Ferguson in arguing for the continuation of segregation in public schools. The Supreme Court Opinion statement delivered by Mr. Chief Justice Warren stated that “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ” eparate but equal” has no place.
Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others of the similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. ” The Brown case was necessary in clearing the way towards full equality for the Negroes in America.
Though the Brown case did not directly overturn the Plessy case descion, it made it perfectly clear that segregation in areas other than public education could not continue. The Brown case enabled Negroes to fight peacefully for their freedom through sit-ins, demonstrations, boycotts, and the exercise of their voting rights. With the Brown case descion and the end of school segregation came the start of the fall of white supremacy. On December 1, 1955, the action of Mrs. Rosa Parks gave rise to a form of protest that lead the civil rights movement-nonviolent action. Mrs. Parks worked at a Montgomery department store pinning up hems, raising waistlines.
When the store closed, Mrs. Parks boarded a Cleveland Avenue bus, and took a seat behind the white section in row eleven. The bus was half full when Rosa Parks boarded, but soon was filled leaving a white man standing. “Y’all better make it light on yourself and let me have those seats,” said the bus driver James Blake as he ordered the black passengers in row eleven to move. Everyone except Mrs. Parks moved to the rear of the bus. “When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No I’m not. ‘” recalled Mrs. Rosa Parks.
James Blake replied “Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m oing to call the police and have you arrested,” with Rosa Parks bravely replaying “You may do that. ” Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the Municipal code separating the races in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa Parks was taken to the city jail in a police car where she was booked for “violating the law banning integration “. At the police station she longed for a drink of water to soothe her dry throat, “but they wouldn’t permit me to drink out of the water fountain, it was for whites only. ” Rosa Parks was convicted and fined ten dollars plus four dollars in court cost.
The arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 was not the first time Mrs. Parks had challenged the Jim Crow laws of the South. In 1943, the same bus driver who arrested her in 1955, James Blake threw her off the bus for violating the segregation laws. During the 1940’s the quiet, dignified older lady refused on several different occasions to submit to segregation laws. “My resistance to being mistreated on the buses and anywhere else was just a regular thing with me and not just that day “stated Rosa after she was arrested. Mrs. Parks was an active member in organizations that fought for the equality of races.
She was the first secretary for the Alabama State Conference of NAACP Branches, and she helped organize an NAACP Youth Council chapter in Montgomery. News of Mrs. Parks arrest soon reached E. D. Nixon, the man who headed the NAACP when Mrs. Parks was its secretary. Nixon tried to call one of the cities two black lawyers, Fred Gray, but Gray was not at home, so Mr. Nixon called Clifford Durr. Clifford Durr was member of the Federal Communications Commission, and had recently returned to Montgomery from Washington DC. “About six o’ clock that night the telephone rang, and Mr. Nixon said that he understood that Mrs.
Parks was arrested, and he had called the jail, but they wouldn’t tell him why she had been arrested. So they thought that if Cliff called, a white lawyer, they might tell him. Cliff called, and they said she’s been arrested under the segregation laws… so Mr. Nixon raised the bond and signed the paper and got Mrs. Parks out, ” recalled Virginia Durr. “Mrs. Parks, with your permission we can break down segregation on the bus with your case, “E. D. Nixon asked Rosa Parks.
Parks consulted her mother and husband, and deiced to let Mr. Nixon make her case into a cause, stating “I’ ll go along with you Mr. Nixon. Nixon, at home was making a list of black ministers in Montgomery, who would help support their boycott. Lacking the influence he once had in the NAACP, because of his background, Nixon deiced that the church would be better to go through to reach people, “because they(the church) had their hands on the masses. ” Progressive minister, Reverend Ralph Abernnathy, who E. D. Nixon knew through his work at the NAACP would be the first to receive the call to mobilize people. At five A. M. Friday morning, the next day, Nixon called Rev. Abernathy, who knew most of the other minister and black leaders in Montgomery.
After iscussing the situation Nixon called eighteen other ministers and arranged a meeting for Friday evening to discuss Parks arrest and the actions they wanted to take. Fred Gray called Jo Ann Robinson Thursday night and told her about the arrest of Rosa Parks. Robinson knew Parks from the Colvin case and believed she would be the ideal person to go through a test case to challenge segregation. Robinson then proceeded to call the leaders of the Women’s Political Council, who urged her to start the boycott in support of Rosa Parks starting on Monday, Parks’ trail date.
Jo Ann Robinson made leaflets that described the boycott and ad her students help her hand them out. “This is for Monday, Dec. 5, 1955-Another Negro women has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus and give it to a white person. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro women has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. The women’s case will come up Monday. We are therefor asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trail.
Don’t ride the buses to work, to schools, or anywhere on Monday… ” Thousands of the anonymous leaflets were passed secretly through Montgomery’s black neighborhoods. By the time the ministers and civil rights leaders met on Friday evening, word of the boycott had spread through the city. Reverend L. Roy Bennett, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance, headed the meeting. Rev. Bennett wanted to start the boycott on the following Monday because he feared that there was no time to waste, he also wanted the ministers to start organizing committees to lead the boycott.
Some of the black leaders objected, calling for a debate on the pros and cons of having a boycott. Almost half of the leaders left in frustration before a descion was reached, ill those remaining agreed to spread the word about the one-day boycott at their Sunday mass meeting. E. D. Nixon did not attend the meeting on Friday evening that he arranged because he was at work, but before Nixon left he took one of Jo Ann Robinson’s leaflets and called Joe Azbell, a white reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser.
“He said, ‘I’ve got a big story for you and I want you to meet me,’ now E. D. oesn’t talk in long sentences, he’s very short and brusque… He said, ‘Can you meet me? ‘ I said, ‘Yeah I can meet you. ‘ So we met down at Union Station and he showed me one of these leaflets. And he said, ‘I want to tell you what e are going to do. We’re gonna boycott these buses. We’re tired of them fooling around with our women-they done it for the last time. ‘ So I said ‘Okay’, Nixon said, ‘You gonna put this on the front page? ‘ And I said ‘yeah I’m gonna try to. ” recalled Joe Azbell. The story of the upcoming boycott was on the front page of Sunday’s morning edition, spreading the word to all the Negroes in Montgomery.
The piece Azbell ran on the boycott accused the NAACP of “planting that Parks women ” on the bus to stir things up and cause trouble. The Montgomery Advertiser said that the Negroes were about to “embrace the same egative solutions ” as the hated White Citizens Council. The ministers reinforced the call of the boycott at the pulpit that Sunday morning, but doubt remained in the minds of the boycott organizers. Would Montgomery’s black community unite for the boycott? Or would they ride the buses in fear of white retaliation? The clergymen had barely been able to agree on the one-day boycott, so why would the people follow them?
To add to their worries it looked like it might rain. On Monday morning the sky was very dark with huge rain clouds covering the sun. City police were on the watch for black “goon squads” that would keep lack people off the buses. The police chief even went as far as to have two motorcycle cops follow each bus. By 5:30 A. M. Monday, a torn off piece of cardboard appeared on a bus shelter at Court Square, one of the main downtown bus stops.
In the house of young Dr. Martian Luther King Jr. on Monday, December 4th, Dr. King was making coffee in his kitchen. The Friday night meeting had taken place at his church in Montgomery and he feared that the boycott would fail. Dr. Reverend King took his coffee and sat down and waited for the first us on the South Jackson l0 line to go by his house at 6:00 A. M. The South Jackson line carried more Negroes than any other line in town; “the first bus was usually jammed full with Negro domestics on their way to work “. Dr. King was still in the kitchen when his wife Coretta cried “Martin, Martin, come quickly! ” Martin just made it to the window in time to see an empty bus go by.
In a state of high excitement, King waited for the next bus to go by. It was empty. So was the third one. With sprits soaring high Dr. King drove over to Abernathy’s house in his car and the two of them drove all over town looking at the buses. All over Montgomery the buses were empty of black people. It looked like the boycott would be one hundred percent effective. There were black students gladly hitchhiking to Alabama State. There were old man and women walking as far as twelve miles to their downtown jobs. People were riding mules, cows, horses and driving horse-drawn buggies to work.
Not one single person stood at a bus stop that wanted to ride the buses, just groups of young people who stood there cheering and singing “No riders today! ” as the buses pulled away from the stop. Montgomery’s eighteen black-owned taxi companies had agreed to transport lacks for the same fare as they would pay on the bus-ten cents-on Monday morning the cabs were crammed with people.
In the Alabama Journal a reporter described that first Monday. “Negroes were on almost every street corner in the downtown area, silent, waiting for rides or moving about to keep warm, but few got on buses… cores of Negroes were walking, their lunches were in brown paper sacks under their arms. None spoke to white people. They exchanged little talk among themselves. It was an almost solemn event. ” A local black historian who had watched the days events unfolded stated hat “the ‘old unlearned Negroes’ were confused. It seemed they could not figure out if the police (ridding along the buses) would arrest them or protect them if they attempted to ride the buses… the few Negroes that rode the buses were more confused. They found it difficult to get off without being embarrassed by other Negroes who waited at the bus stops throughout the city.
Some were even seen ducking in the aisles as the buses passed various stops. ” At 3:00 P. M. that afternoon King and other leaders of the boycott met to set up a permanent organization to run the boycott. At Abernathy’s suggestion hey called it the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), to “stress the positive, uplift approach of their movement. ” The meeting was also called to elect officers. Rufus Lewis saw the election as a way to move the “well- entrenched ” Bennett aside in a diplomatic way. Quickly Lewis nominated King as president.
Lewis attended King’s church and heard him speak often and knew he was a master speaker, also Dr. King was new in town. “Rev. King was a young man, a very intelligent man. He had not been here long enough for the city fathers to put their hands on him. Usually they’d find some young man just come to town… at him on the back and tell him what a nice church he got.
They’d say ‘Reverend, your suit don’t look so nice to represent so-and-so Baptist Church’… and they’d get him a suit… you’d have to watch out for that kind of thing ” recalls E. D. Nixon, about how officials in Montgomery treated black leaders. With Rev. King as the new leader of the boycott, the organizers had to deiced whether or not to have the bus boycott extend beyond Monday. The one-day boycott had shown a strength that was never seen before in Montgomery. To extend the boycott would be a direct assault by blacks on the Jim Crow system. A serious and potentially dangerous event. Several of the ministers were suggesting to leave the boycott as a one- day success, they said the boycott might fall apart if it rained or if the police started to arrest people.
No one thought that it would last till the end of the work week, which was four days away. E. D. Nixon in a thundering voice said that they should confront the whites no matter what. The time had come to take a stand! “What is the matter with you people? Here you have been living off the sweat of these washwomen all these years and you have never done anything for them. Now you have a chance to pay them back, and you’re to damn scared to stand on your feet and be counted! The time has come to be grown man or scared boys ” said Nixon gesturing his big hands at the group of boycott leaders when they wanted to quit.
Nixon was mad because his successor at the head of the NAACP in Alabama had refused to help or support the boycott unless he got approval from the national office. “The man who was the President of the NAACP, said at that time, ‘Brother Nixon, I’ll have to wait until I talk to New York ( NAACP headquarters) to find out what they think of it. I said ‘Man we ain’t got time for that. ‘ He believed in doing everything by the book. And the book stated that you had to notify New York before you take a step like that. ” recalled E. D. Nixon on how the NAACP responded when he asked them for support.
The group agreed to wait until that night’s meeting and let the people decided if the boycott was to continue. The meeting was to be held at the Holt Street Baptist Church, because it was in a black section of town. They figured that Negroes would probably feel safer if they didn’t have to travel through white neighborhoods to get to the meeting. Newly elected leader of the MIA, Dr. King had about twenty minuets to prepare a speech which he later called one of the most important speeches in his life.
It took Doctor King fifteen minuets to park his car and make his way to the church at 7:00 P. M. There were no empty seats in the church and people were spilled into the aisles and through the doorways in the back, the church had been packed since five that afternoon. Outside the church thousands stood to listen to the speeches and preaching that was going on inside through loudspeakers. The meeting opened with “Onward Christian Soldiers”, followed by peeches from the boycott leaders. Joe Azbell again covered the boycott story saying that “the Holt Street Baptist Church was probably the most fired up, enthusiastic gathering of human beings that I’ve ever seen.
I came down the street and I couldn’t believe there were so many cars. I parked many blocks from the church just to get a place for my car. I went up to the church, and they made way for me because I was the first white person there… I was two minutes late and they were already preaching, and that audience was so on fire that the preacher would get up and say, ‘Do you want your freedom? And they’d say, ‘Yeah, I want my freedom! ‘ The preacher would say, ‘Are you for what we are doing? ; ‘Yeah, go ahead, go ahead! ‘… and they were so excited… I’ve never heard singing like that… hey were on fire for freedom.
There was a sprit there no one could capture again… it was so powerful. And then King stood up, and most of them didn’t know how he was. And yet he was a master speaker… I went back and I wrote a special column, I wrote that this was the beginning of a flame that would go across America. ” Doctor King approached the podium with only a mental outline of his speech. If he choked in front of all of these people it would be the end of the boycott, but if he inspired them there was no telling what they could do together. “We’re here this evening for serious business.
We’re here in a general sense because first and foremost, we are American citizens, and we are determined to acquire our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning… There comes a time when people get tired… tired of being segregated and humiliated; tired of being kicked about the brutal feet of oppression. We have no alternative but to protest. For many years, we have shown amazing patience. We ave sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated.
But we come here tonight to be saved, to be saved from patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice…. If we are wrong then the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong then the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God almighty is wrong. ” The crowd roared with ‘yeas’ and ‘right ons’, all through Dr. Kings speech. The strongest show of emotion and applause came when Rev. King bravely noted that “If you protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love, hen the history books are written in future generations the historians will pause and say ‘There lived a great people-a black people-who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization’…
We will not retreat one inch in our fight to secure and hold our American citizenship. ” The church roared in approval of Kings speech which was followed with an introduction of Rosa Parks that received a standing ovation. Then Rev. Abernathy proceeded to recite the three demands of the boycott. 1)Courteous treatment of passengers on the buses. 2)Change the seating to a first-come, first-served basis with blacks starting t the rear, and whites starting at the front. 3)The hiring of black bus drivers on predominantly black routes.
Rev. Abernathy asked the people attending the meeting to vote and descied whether or not the boycott should continue. Throughout the church people began to stand. At first in ones and twos. Soon every person was standing in the Holt Street Church approving the continuation of the boycott. The thousands of people standing outside cheered in a resounding “YES! ” “The fear left that had shackled us across the years-all left suddenly when we were in that church together ” recalled Abernathy on how people left he church unafraid, but how they were uncertain on how the city’s white leaders would respond to their boycott.
The Montgomery police were their main concern. A white police officer had a few months earlier shot a black man who had refused a bus driver order to get off the bus and reboard from the rear. The man demanded his dime back, and the police officer suddenly fired his gun, instantly killing the man. The dreaded Montgomery police were already harassing blacks who were peacefully waiting for the taxis. Four days later the MIA, including King and attorney Fred Gray, met with he city commissioners and representatives of the bus company.
The MIA presented their three demands, with King making it clear that they were not seeking an end to segregation through the boycott. The bus company’s manger, James H. Bagely and its attorney, Jack Crenshaw frantically denied that the bus drivers were regularly discourteous to black passengers. They rejected the idea of hiring black bus drivers and stated that the proposed seating plan was in violation of the state statue and city code. Attorney Gray responded by showing that the seating plan was in no way a violation against the already existing segregation laws.
The seating arrangements proposed was already in practice in another Alabama city, Mobil. The Mobil bus company was also run by the same bus company as the Montgomery bus line. Attorney Crenshaw was adamant about the seating proposal. Commissioner Frank was ready to give in and accept the seating proposal, but Crenshaw argued ” I don’t see how we can do it within the law. If it were legal I would be the first to go along with it, but it just isn’t legal. The only way that it can be done is to change the segregation laws. ” Commissioner Clyde Sellers who was staunchly opposed to segregation was not about to compromise.
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- History of The United States
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
Updated 18 August 2023
Subject History of The United States
Topic Civil Rights , Martin Luther King , Nonviolence
Since its independence in 1776, United States of America has had a depraved history of racism. Socially and legally approved rights and privileges were given mostly to white American but not to the African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans. There were separate schools for the whites and other communities (Winter 12). Voting rights were exclusively for whites, as other communities were not allowed to participate in political affairs of the nation. There were various prejudices against minorities only recognized by whites as descendants of slaves. The unfair treatment of these groups was observed in many institutions across the United States of America. Even seating in buses was racially designed with whites being given priority over African-Americans. For a long time, no one in America spoke strongly against the racial prejudices (Williams 11). There was no judicial support for the fight, and therefore it did not have any results. Majority of African-Americans opt not to comply with the racial laws and regulations for fear of violence from the white supremacists group who could do anything to protect these injustices. However, in towards the end of 19th century, a growing group of Americans started fighting for justice and equity for all Americans regardless of their social background and color. In the early 1940s and 1950s, the struggle against racial segregation started picking serious momentum in most parts of the United States (Winter 12). Black Americans and the white sympathizers as well as other civil rights activists across all races joined hands to push for reforms and inclusivity in American societies. A court case of 1954, Brown v. Board of Education at the Supreme Court was a landmark in the fight against social injustices (Winter 13). The judges presiding over the case rules that separate educational facilities for black community were unconstitutional. The court ruling was angered many whites especially those from white supremacists group. They vowed not to respect the ruling and continue with these racially biased laws. However the next year, 1955, a major protest began against bus transport in Alabama where despite the black majority, they were to sit on the rear seats of the bus and give way their bus seats to white riders in case the bus is full and they cannot find seats. The front spaces of the bus were reserved for whites (Williams 17). One woman, Rosa Parks, was the main cause of Montgomery protests. Before the demonstration, she refused to yield her seat to white American when the bus was full. Later she the authorities arrested and arraigned her in court and fined $14. Her case came nine months after the arrest of a 15-year-old Colvin for the same act. Women political council group called for the boycott of the bus system. African-Americans were to avoid using Montgomery buses to and from work as well as other places. Black leaders who met to discuss the protest chose Martin Luther Junior as their overall leader. They demanded courtesy and employment of black drivers. Moreover, they wanted the seating arrangement to be based on a first-come first-policy (Winter 15). They organized carpooling where they were charged the same fare as the bus. These sustained the boycott for 381 days. On June 1956, the court declared segregation on buses illegal and unconstitutional. This was a major achievement towards the fight for justice. Reflecting back on the Montgomery bus protest, it can be said that the civil right activists and accomplished a milestone in the fight for the rights of every American. Looking back at the bus boycott, this essay will discuss how beneficial the protest was to the United States of American society.
First, the boycott gave the civil rights activist confidence to continue fighting for the equality in their society. It created a path for ending if not reducing racism in American institutions. The movement fashioned deep and lifelong changes in the United States of America. White communities started to rethink their relationship with African-Americans as many cases of racial motivated were won in courts. Its success brought Martin Luther into the limelight, and he made a major contribution in the fight for civil liberty (Tufekci 18). His speeches inspired many people who continued the fight for social justice. As the captain of the black civil rights activist, he spearheaded nonviolence ways to protest against injustices in the society. Many who came after him followed his footsteps. Luther, after Montgomery Bus Boycott, formed Southern Christian Conferences to fight for more changes in the society as far social ill and racial prejudices are concerned. He moved around the country from one state to the other giving speeches that were later used to change the society after his assassination. All these were from the momentum of bus boycott success in Montgomery (Thornton III 40). His effort and role in the boycott came to self-realization and consciousness to fight and achieve more for the American society.
Another benefit of the boycott that was immediate was the drop of unfair treatment of African especially by the use of racially biased laws that were enacted to deny African-American privileges that are same as those to whites. African-Americans also gained self-assurance that they can fight have one victory at a time and continued to fight for the abolition of racial policies in various institutions (Shultziner 117). The bus boycott awakened the black community that much can be achieved when they unite to fight for a common voice. Others like Martin Luther became more courageous and did not fear death as he said in his last speech before the assassination.
Consequently, Montgomery Bus Boycott exposed the loose judicial system that the United States had at the time. The sweet words of freedom and equality that were written in the declaration of independence were not being practiced. Many judges would make their ruling favoring the interest of the white supremacists. When the case of racial seating arrangement was brought before the courts, few months after the Supreme Court banned it, the high court judge, Groom, stated that the matter involved a private business and no racial discrimination on its face. These show how laws were applied selectively and judgment designed to serve the interest of the whites. In addition, it can be said that the bus boycott was beneficial as it put the courts and the judicial system on the spot (Guinier and Torres. 2740). There were reviews of the policies and laws that were passed to favor whites and discriminate against African-Americans. Laws were reviewed to assess their alignment with the constitution and the wishes of the founders of the nation as stated in the declaration of independence. At times, the lawyers and judges that supported segregation could not defend it and constitution simultaneously. Constitution talked about the rights of all citizens of the United States and their freedom, and it did not particularize whether some of those rights were for whites and others were for the African-Americans (Chong 15). As the law says, any legislation that does not conform to the constitution null and void, the judges, though white was forced to recognize the unconstitutionality of the policies of segregation taking a case study of Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The judicial review that was not done directly but by aligning various policies with the requirement of the constitution gave Africa- America confidence in the judiciary. Ruling on Montgomery Bus Boycott was a major boost to the faith of African-Americans in their judicial system. The courts became their refuge, and they would go there to seek justice whenever they feel their rights were violated (Alderman, Kingsbury and Owen 171). This was better than engaging in violence to fight for those rights as it was observed before the boycott. Although at times they faced setbacks in the same courts, they started to trust; there was hope that all were to be well someday and their rights would be granted. Besides, Montgomery Bus Boycott caught the attention of the whole nation as it was reported in major newspapers like New York Times. This was a benefit as the whole nation; both whites and African-Americans could see the rot in their society. It was reported that some whites started supporting African-Americans after the incidence a clear indication of a change of attitude (Alderman, Kingsbury and Owen 171). America was not going to be a better society if they did not change their attitude, which the boycott, though did not fully, change the whole society, it gained some support from the whites, and this was rare occurrence given the years of racial segregation. In other words, this was the first fight against racial discrimination that went felt nationwide.
The benefit that came with boycott being heard and felt nationally is that it made it possible for other discriminated African-Americans in other parts of the country also to start fighting for their rights. In addition, the seriousness black community in the push for equality was observed. The authorities were disturbed not because the African-Americans were rising against the social ill but because their negligence and subtle support of the injustice against black community were being exposed and the judgments on various cases favoring African-Americans embarrassed some of them(Alderman, Kingsbury and Owen 171). While it was difficult for them to admit the unfairness in their society, it was no longer a secret that their services were no for all Americans.
Additionally, the harassment stopped, as there was nothing the whites could do about the court decision. Even though there was violence against African-Americans after the court ruling banning segregation, the public harassment of African-Americans in buses including calling them niggers reduced. There was a bit of respect gained with the judgment. Even though this was a short-term achievement of the bus boycott, its benefit was more psychological (Tufekci 18). There was sense of belonging that African- America started to feel about themselves and the place they call home. The country gained self-rule from the British only to colonize part of its communities. The struggle for freedom and civil rights for the black community continued. The benefit was not going to be immediate but definite. It set the pace and gave a direction that most struggles took. The fruits these struggles are now being enjoyed by generations several decades later. Even if it placed the black communities at logger's head with the Alabama authorities, at least someone needed to stand up for them, and there was no right time for it (Tufekci 18). The opportunity presented itself with the arrest of Rosa Parks that they could not have left to pass by while they are watching injustice thrive.
Likewise, it was a test for the African-America’s unity, which was obvious given the period the boycott lasted before things resume normalcy. African-Americans came to realize that they could always stand together and achieve much as far as racial discrimination is concerned. There are those who offered their taxis and private cars to transport people from work and to work every day for the next three eighty-three days. This was a show of unity that only the bus boycott made them realize (Williams 11). Currently, the Americans can use one bus without much difficulties on who the seating arrangements. Discrimination even in education institutions does no longer exist anymore.
The little steps that make major changes are what can be used to describe the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The immediate consequences were not desirable as it exposes African-Americans to more violence from members of the white supremacists. However, it had a long-term benefit that is now being enjoyed several years later. The whites in the USA can now live with African-Americans well without any suspicion, and the same can be said of the whites (Tufekci 18). Abolition of racial segregation that started with small efforts and courage of People like Rosa Parks made American a better society and even electing its first black president, Barak Obama, in 2008 presidential elections. His election could not have been possible if the bus boycott could not have happened. There are other struggles though that followed the boycott but it was the genesis of more defiant black communities and the disappointments of the white supremacists as the privileges were no longer for the whites but all Americans(Williams 18). Racial discrimination started to reduce in most places as the struggle continued it moved from public places to mostly private regions and later to total abolition of segregation to all areas. The black leaders who came after the likes of Martin Luther, Rosa Parks, already had role models thus continued the fight until it achieved the society they can all be proud of including the whites who hated African-Americans so much. Equality has been observed even in workplaces. The African-Americans started rising since bus boycott incidence making subtle steps with triumph and disappointments (Williams 21). The confidence and momentum were the results of the Montgomery Boycott, and it spread beyond Alabama to other states.
In sum, it is right to say that the Montgomery boycott was beneficial but of course did not result in immediate success that the black communities could have been proud of at the time. The people who struggle and victimized during the bus boycott did not benefit much as some of them like Martin Luther King Junior’s life ended in assassination. However, the achievements of the incidence can only be counted many decades later.
The boycott was a journey of pain and struggles. Several judges who started giving rulings against segregation citing that it violated the constitution somehow helped in reviewing of the judicial system. In addition, it made headlines of several influential newspapers like New York Time making it a national concern. The black in other states was motivated; they realize the importance of unity of purpose. On the other side, the whites underestimated the black unity and what they can achieve together as far as the fight against racial segregation is concerned. Leaders like Martin Luther King Junior also got a platform to start their serious human right crusade. He formed another movement to push for reforms giving inspiring speeches that still being emulated to date. They picked impetus from the Montgomery Bus Boycott after realizing how much a crowd of peaceful demonstrated can achieve. Ending of the racial seating arrangement in the buses were some of the short-term benefits of the shunning the buses. African-Americans communities also began to trust their courts that for a long time have ruled against them even in cases where evidence is indisputable. Trusting the courts was one-step towards stopping the violence way of reacting to racial injustices. In addition, they started having a sense of belonging because the laws could favor them, which was rare in periods before the boycott.
Most importantly, the Montgomery gave the civil rights movement a clear direction to that was later followed by many leaders. No form of intimidation should stop the fight for a better society as the achievement cannot be immediate but definite. Looking back on the event of that day, the accomplishments of the boycott can now be seen. Just like any change that usually faces resistant, the changes needed by African-Americans were not the only exemption. The whites reacted the court ruling banning racial seating arrangements in public transport. These were just but small steps towards what is being seen today as a better society where there is lots of respect for people of different races. If the boycott could not have happened, even Barak, the son of a black man could not have contested for the presidency. The benefit of this incidence was more a long-term issue than what African-Americans could achieve or enjoy just hours after the ban on segregation in buses. Other demonstrations followed, but the momentum or morale was based on what happened on that day in Montgomery. The Unity of the black became stronger than before the boycott incidence. They assisted each other in various ways. As explained several paragraphs above, there were subtle benefits that came decades later. Most people did not see this as they focus on the violent reaction of the white supremacists group to conclude that the bus boycott should not have happened. Those who participated in the boycott can today look back with pride that they fought hard with pain and violence to create the freedom and rights that everyone is now enjoying in the United States of America. In all instructions in America right now, racism is outdated, the black and whites can now board buses or train together and ride to their destinations without forcing the other to yield seat for a white.
Alderman, Derek H., Paul Kingsbury, and Owen J. Dwyer. "Reexamining the Montgomery bus boycott: Toward an empathetic pedagogy of the civil rights movement." The Professional Geographer 65.1 (2013): 171-186.
Chong, Dennis. Collective action and the civil rights movement. University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Guinier, Lani, and Gerald Torres. "Changing the wind: Notes toward a demosprudence of law and social movements." Yale LJ 123 (2013): 2740.
Shultziner, Doron. "The social-psychological origins of the Montgomery bus boycott: Social interaction and humiliation in the emergence of social movements." Mobilization: An International Quarterly 18.2 (2013): 117-142.
Thornton III, J. Mills. "Challenge and Response in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955–1956." Alabama Review 67.1 (2014): 40-112.
Tufekci, Zeynep. "After the Protest." New York Times 19 (2014).
Williams, Juan. Eyes on the prize: America's civil rights years, 1954-1965. Penguin, 2013.
Winter, Max. Civil Rights Movement. ABDO, 2014.
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Montgomery Bus Boycott Leaving Cert History Case Study
Montgomery Bus Boycott Leaving Cert History: Case Study
Why Montgomery? Despite threats and violence, the civil rights movement quickly moved beyond school desegregation to challenge segregation in other areas. ► In December 1955, Rosa Parks a member of the Montgomery, Alabama, branch of the NAACP, was told to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person. ►
Parks Arrested When Parks refused to move, she was arrested. ► The local NAACP, led by Edgar D. Nixon, recognized that the arrest of Parks might rally local African Americans to protest segregated buses. ► Woman fingerprinted. Mrs. Rosa Parks, Negro seamstress, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus touched off the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.
The Boycott Montgomery’s African American community had long been angry about their mistreatment on city buses where white drivers were rude and abusive. ► The community had previously considered a boycott of the buses and overnight one was organized. ► The bus boycott was an immediate success, with almost unanimous support from the African Americans in Montgomery. ►
Martin Luther King’s involvement A Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. was president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that directed the boycott. ► His involvement in the protest made him a national figure. Through his eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and American idealism he attracted people both inside and outside the South. ►
Martin Luther King a the SCLC ► ► King became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) when it was founded in 1957. The SCLC complemented the NAACP’s legal strategy by encouraging the use of nonviolent, direct action to protest segregation. These activities included marches, demonstrations, and boycotts. The harsh white response to African Americans’ direct action eventually forced the federal government to confront the issue of racism in the South.
Victory The boycott lasted for more than a year, expressing to the nation the determination of African Americans in the South to end segregation. ► In November 1956, a federal court ordered Montgomery’s buses desegregated and the boycott ended in victory. ►
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Induction & Hooding Ceremonies
Black male college explorers program (bmcep).