On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded a Montgomery City Bus year old to go home from work. On that bus on that day, she initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom, equality and justice.
She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as 'Jim Crow Laws' Mrs Parks appealled her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequalities of American society.
The next day Dr Martin Luther King proposed a city wide boycott of public transportation at a church meeting.On December 5th, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city. Out of Motgomery's 50,000 African American residents, 30,000 to 40,000 participated. They walked or bicycled or car pooled, depriving the bus company of a substantial portion of its revenue.
The boycott lasted 381 days, and proved to be effective, causing the transit system to run a huge deficit.After all Montgomery's black residents were not only the principal boycotters, but also the bulk of the transit system's paying customers. The situation became very tense, with members of the White Citizens Council, a group that oppossed racial integration firebombed Kings house.
In June 1956, a federal court found that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. However an appeal kept segragation intact until Dec 20, 1956 when the US Supreme Court upheld the district court's rulings.The boycott's official end signalled one of the civil rights movements first victories and made King one of its central figures.
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With new self respect and a new sense of dignity , it was part of the beginning of a call for revolutionary change, the oppressed were determined to stand up and struggle until the walls of injustice had crumbled. It would be a long and hard journey, which would see them take on and triumph against the dominant repressive forces of evil.
This movement has echoes with the divestment movement and the campaign of boycott against apartheid South Africa, and currently again against the policies of apartheid Israel.Where people are once again daily defiantly taking nonviolent direct action in defence of oppressed people.
Montgomery Bus Protest