Friday, January 15, 2010

THe Montgomery Bus Boycott: an important event in the civil rights movement

(Abby Bass was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2008-2009 school year.)

Rosa Parks slowly walked to a seat, tired from a long day. A white man was left standing after everyone had found a seat. The bus driver told Rosa and three other black passengers in the row to move so that the white man could sit there. At first, no one moved. Then, the bus driver finally convinced the three black passengers to move. Rosa Parks stayed sitting. The bus driver ordered her to move again. She refused. The bus driver then threatened that he would have her arrested. Rosa Parks still refused to move from her seat. She was arrested. (

This is just one of the events that this paper will explore. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Browder vs. Gayle case, Martin Luther Jr., and the segregation rules and policies there was in the 1950’s are also all topics included in this paper.

On December 1st, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a forty-two year old seamstress, got on one of the city buses. She sat in the row after the ten seats. One of the rules on the bus was that the first ten seats on the bus were reserved for whites only. A couple stops after Mrs. Parks had gotten on, there were no seats left. A white man had nowhere to sit. The bus driver, James Blake, ordered everyone in that row to move. All the passengers had to move because in the 1950s a black person could not sit by or in the same row as a white person. Jim Crow Laws were segregation laws. This rule about blacks and whites in the same row was one of Jim Crow Laws. Three of the passengers ended up moving, but Rosa Parks refused to move. When James Blake told her that he would have her arrested if she didn’t move, she told him to go ahead and do that. He had her arrested and fined ten dollars. (Stein, pg.5) ( ( (,9171,861809,00.html)

While at the station she wasn’t treated well, but was allowed to call home. E.D. Nixon, president of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) came to post bond for Mrs. Parks. He wanted to use her case to go against segregation on buses. She ended up agreeing. A group formed, called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), to plan a one-day boycott to go against segregation on buses. Some of the members of this group were Ralph David Abernathy, Edgar Nixon, Bayard Rustin, Jo Ann Robinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a preacher at a Baptist Church in Montgomery. The group scheduled the boycott for Monday December 5th. To spread the news to the people, the committee passed out leaflets. (Nobelman, pg. 34) (King, pg.33) ( ( (

When Monday came around, the MIA was glad to see many nearly empty buses go through Montgomery. Africans Americans made up almost sixty percent of the people who rode buses. In fact, the boycott was such a success that they met on that night and decided to continue the boycott. Since the buses were a main way to travel, the citizens participating in the boycott had to find other ways to get to school, the store, and work. Some churches started using station wagons to transport people, some black cab services charged only ten cents so more people could ride, carpools were formed, bicycles were ridden, and more people walked. People in other states began to donate shoes to help the boycott. The city was angered that the boycott was such a success. They were rapidly losing money because of the boycott. ( ( (

Many attempts were made to stop the boycotts. City officials announced that the any cab service charging less than forty-five cents would be prosecuted, and more people were arrested for small traffic offenses. The city had laws against boycotts and Martin Luther King, Jr. was fined five hundred dollars for being involved in the boycott. Both E.D. Nixon’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s houses were bombed. (
Montgomery black citizens did not give up, though. The boycott continued until December 20, 1956. The Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws about bus seating is unconstitutional and violates the 14th amendment. (

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech shortly after it was announced that the segregation law was unconstitutional and would no longer be a law. “All along, we have sought to carry out the protest on high moral standards…rooted in the deep soils of the Christian faith. We have carefully avoided bitterness. [The] months have not been easy…Our feet have often been tired and our automobiles worn, but we have kept going with the faith that our struggle we had cosmic companionship, and that, at bottom, the universe is on the side of justice. [The Supreme Court’s decision was] a revelation of the eternal validity of this faith, [and] came to all of us as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of enforced segregation in public transportation.”
‘Just Sit Down.’ When the court order comes through. Dr. King urged his followers, act sensibly but without pride. On the one hand, ‘we have been going to the back of the bus for so long there is danger that we instinctively will go straight back there again and perpetuate segregation. Just sit down where a seat is convenient.’ On the other hand, ‘I would be terribly disappointed if any of you go back to the buses bragging, ‘We the Negroes, won a victory over the white people’…I hope nobody will go back with undue arrogance. If you do, our struggle will be lost all over the South. Go back with humility and meekness.” 10,000 African American people listened to this speech in of Montgomery’s streets and two largest churches. (,9171,867317,00.html)
Police Chief G. J. Ruppenthal told his 159 officers in Montgomery that they would no longer enforce the segregation laws. (,9171,867481,00.html)

Another case, called Browder vs. Gayle, helped end bus segregation laws. While Rosa Park’s case was being looked at, Browder vs. Gayle was decided on June 4th,1956. The plantiffs were Claudette Colvin, Mary louise Smith, Aurelia Browder, and Susie McDonald. All four women had refused to give up their seats on Montgomery buses months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old at the time she refused her seat. Mary Louise Smith was 18 years old at the time if her arrest. ( NAACP looked at her case, but didn’t use it to fight segregation laws because rumors said that her father was an alcoholic. ( Aurelia Browder was the lead plantiff in the case Browder vs. Gayle. Her arrest was seven months before Rosa Park’s arrest. ( Susie McDonald was a woman in her seventies who refused to give up her seat. These four women testified before judges Frank M. Johnson, Seybourn h. Lynne, and Richard T. Rives. (
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one very important event in the Civil Rights Movement. It was one of the earlier events. It gave hope that both white and black people could get along and have the same rights.

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