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The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a protest campaign that took place from December 1, 1955 to December 20, 1956. The protest was against the racial segregation policy that was implemented by the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama. The social protest also took a political angle with the support of eminent leaders of that time, such as Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Africana Online: Comprehensive information on the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Watson: A detailed account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

As more and more African American people started boycotting the public transport of Montgomery, a deficit in the profit margins began to appear in the city's transport department. The boycott was finally ended after the United States Supreme Court declared that the segregation transit policy of Montgomery had to be changed because it was unconstitutional.

According to the Montgomery bus segregation system, the whites should fill up the front seats of the bus, while the blacks should occupy the rear seats. If a white person boarded the bus after all the seats were filled up, the black people occupying the rear rows had to offer their seats to him. However, if a black person boarded a bus that had no vacant seats, he had to stand throughout the journey.

The boycott was triggered by an incident that involved a seamstress from Tuskegee, Alabama called Rosa Parks. On the day of December 1, 1955, Parks boarded a bus, and she was seated in the rear rows, just like all the other black passengers. After some time, a Caucasian man entered the bus and found that all the seats were occupied. So, the bus driver James F. Blake asked the black passengers near the front row to offer their seats to the white man. Rosa was supposed to get up from her seat, but she refused to oblige. As a result, she was arrested and fined $10 for not conforming to the Alabama transport laws. The black community of the city was enraged by the incident, and soon, a social protest ensued.

  • Grand Times: Information on Rosa Parks , the woman who changed a nation
  • Montgomery Boycott: Website dedicated to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Includes a special section about the life and legacy of Rosa Parks
  • Being finger printed: A photo of Rosa Parks during the process of her arrest.

Consequently, a church meeting was called by Martin Luther King, who was the head of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). After the meeting, the black community decided to boycott the Montgomery city transit. A new proposal was put forward by the MIA which demanded a fixed dividing line in all buses. This proposal suggested that blacks and whites should be seated in separate sections, and even if a white person did not have a seat, no one from the black section would have to vacate his seat.

The full-fledged boycott began on December 3, 1955. Most of the black people either walked to their workplace or utilized carpools to get to their destinations. During the boycott, black taxi drivers reduced their charge to ten cents per ride, which was the same amount as the bus fare.

Some who opposed the boycott resorted to violence. A few Baptist black churches were firebombed, and houses of prominent leaders like Ralph Abernathy, Jo Ann Robinson, and Martin Luther were attacked. However, there was growing resentment among the majority of the American people over the prejudiced transit policy of Alabama. On June 4, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled against the biased Alabama transit policy, and the boycott was called off on December 20, 1956. The new ordinance allowed black passengers to sit in any seat they wanted.

  • America: Article on the Montgomery Bus Boycott that reveals its true significance in the history of American civil rights movement
  • Info Please: A timeline of the history of civil rights movement in the US

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a campaign that resulted in ramifications of public transport policies throughout the United States. It is regarded as the turning point for American civil rights movement, and it led to other legal changes that brought justice to the black people of the US, such as the desegregation of public schools and public facilities, the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and others . The Montgomery Bus Boycott is indeed a very significant campaign for justice and freedom in American history, and it has become a favorite subject for case studies in many law and paralegal schools.