MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT
In 1943, a seamstress named Rosa Parks paid to get on a city bus driven by J. Fred Blake in Montgomery, Alabama. As per custom, Parks paid her fee to ride the bus, then exited so that she could re-enter on the back of the bus, as people of color were supposed to. Blake decided to pull away before letting Parks back on the bus, even though she paid her fee. On December 1, 1955, Parks had another instance on Blake’s bus, this time causing more waves in the national and historical landscape. Life in Montgomery in 1955 still required black citizens to sit on the back half of the bus, and if the white section filled up, black men and women were asked to stand and give up their seats for white citizens. On this date however Parks, who had been sitting in the first row of the colored section, was asked by Blake to give her seat up, and she refused. After paying $14 in court fees and fines, Parks had started a revolution, because enough was enough.
Parks served as the secretary in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), meaning that she knew the significance and opportunity that her actions presented. On December 5th, when Parks was being tried, the Women’s Political Council (WPC) had begun circulating flyers and word spread that there was a call for a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. On Monday, December 5th, 40,000 African-American bus riders, the majority of the business for the transportation company, boycotted the system. It would not end with the transportation boycott however, that same afternoon, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was created in order to garner certain demands that the black citizens had in the city. A 26 year old pastor by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. was elected president of the group.
The group’s demands started off as not an end all be all for segregation, but just that there could be a first come, first serve policy for seating on the bus, and that there would be black bus drivers hired. Even though 75% of bus riders were African-American, the city resisted the demands thinking that the black citizens would have no choice but to abandon their protests. Unfortunately for the city however, carpooling, walking to work and cheap cab rides for African-Americans made it easy for the protestors to resist riding the buses. On June 5, 1956 a Montgomery federal court ruled that segregation on buses violated the 14th Amendment, leading to an eventual integration on December 21, 1956.
As much as the Montgomery bus Boycott was symbolic for the entire Civil Rights Effort, potentially the most practical result of the yearlong boycott was the rise of Dr. King. The boycott brought all kinds of national attention, with King at the forefront. Shortly after the boycott ended, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the rest was history.