The Montgomery Bus Boycott: a History and Reference Guide : A History and Reference Guide 9780313358883, 9780313358876

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Copyright 2009 by Cheryl Phibbs All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Phibbs, Cheryl Fisher. The Montgomery Bus Boycott : a history and reference guide / Cheryl Phibbs. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-313-35887-6 (alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-313-35888-3 (ebook) 1. Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery, Ala., 1955–1956. 2. Segregation in transportation—Alabama—Montgomery—History—20th century. 3. African Americans—Civil rights—Alabama—Montgomery—History—20th century. 4. Civil rights movements— Alabama—Montgomery—History—20th century. 5. Montgomery (Ala.)—Race relations—History—20th century. I. Title. F334.M79N456 2009 323.1196'073071624—dc22 2009022922 13










This book is also available on the World Wide Web as an eBook. Visit for details. ABC-CLIO, LLC 130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 1911 Santa Barbara, California 93116-1911 This book is printed on acid-free paper Manufactured in the United States of America

CONTENTS Preface 1. Indignation

vii 1

2. Just Plain Tired


3. Something Big


4. The Leader


5. Creating a Legacy


6. Challenges to Overcome


7. All Out Attack


8. White Opinion


9. Dignity, Discipline, Dedication


10. A New Era


11. Boot Camp


12. The Legacy


Appendix A: Biographies


Appendix B: Primary Documents










PREFACE Fifty years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the victory seems far removed from the struggles and triumph recorded in the following pages. A bus boycott may not seem quite as amazing as it did when it took place, but after studying all the records and transcripts over the last two years, I am of the belief that its success and the immediate results were nothing short of miraculous. I was raised in North Carolina, on the edge of this civil rights milestone, blind to the fact that it had happened at my own back door. In the 1960s I had Blacks in my school, and we would pick up a Black boy that lived with his grandmother to take him to church on Sundays. We would eat lunch and play together during those afternoons. Yet there were still Black cooks, maids, chauffeurs, and women who took in laundry to serve old-schooled White southerners. The integrations that appeared to be an impossibility in 1955 are now a reality. Not only are Blacks integrated into every aspect of American society, they have moved from virtual disenfranchisement in 1955 to having an African American Democratic president for the first time in history. The unity, dedication, and faithfulness of an entire community of Black people, who walked to work for over a year, exposed to weather conditions, controversy, and violence, fueled the changes that we take for granted today. The success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was truly amazing. A generation of Blacks who had seen slavery and were allowed to fight in World War II to free others were not free in the society for which they fought. They were not allowed to return from the war to America as full



citizens under the laws that governed them. They had absolutely no representation in American politics. In the Southern society that had been dominated by Whites since the founding of America, many Whites were opposed to recognizing Blacks as little more than slaves. These injustices began to stir resentment that was simmering in the Black communities, where they were bound by Southern traditions and Jim Crow laws. Leadership in Montgomery consisted mostly of Black teachers and preachers, who tended to operate separately. When Rosa Parks was arrested, a spark was lit in the community that unified these groups to fight for change. Black preachers and the church made the community believe this fight for fairness was their chosen work to accomplish. The White power structure fighting to save the “Southern way of life” found itself fighting a spiritually anchored Black community that was praying and worshipping their way through the boycott. For the first time in history, blacks stopped competing against one another and pulled together to make difficult sacrifices for a common cause—the creation of a more equal society for themselves and their children. This story must be told and not forgotten. What began as a fight for fairness on a public bus system is a story that ignited the Civil Rights Movement and changed not only history and American society, but also humanity. Its success has been copied and taught around the world, where other exploited societies use its methodology to battle their own injustices. In this work, an attempt has been made to establish a complete and accurate resource for coming generations. Much of recorded history about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, or the Civil Rights Movement, focuses on either Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. However, the boycott included so many interesting personalities and behind-the-scenes politics that added to the success of the protest and fueled the Civil Rights Movement in America. Although historical background is given on Parks, King, and other players in the protest, the purpose of this work is to record the determination of Montgomery’s Black community to protest the way they were being treated as United States citizens in Southern society. Through the use of nonviolent methods in the face of fierce personal, physical, and spiritual attacks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began as a one-day protest, survived a year in the birthplace of the Confederacy. The boycott also owed its success in part to the divisions it raised regarding the violation of human rights even in the homes of White aristocracy. This manuscript focuses in a particular way on the work of the uneducated Black women in Montgomery, who were dedicated, against all probability, to making a difference. It also highlights chronologically, the political movement made up of Black educated professionals, working behind the scenes, who kept these women motivated, unified, and determined to fight the “Southern Establishment.” This record focuses on the tremendous victory of the spirit behind the movement and the details that drove the protest to completion.



As leaders and participants of this boycott gradually pass away, it is important that the stories and victories remain to remind and challenge us that freedom is not given but won at a high price. A. Philip Randolph, an early leader and free thinker in the American Black Civil Rights Movement said, “Freedom is never a final act, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economical, political and religious relationships.” The nonviolent, religious nature of the boycott exposed injustices in American society and forced America to choose who it was going to be. It is critical as we become further removed from the small victories that shaped our present society, that we remember. Democracy cannot exist without community. It was the unity of the Black community in Montgomery that became an example to the entire world of what changes could be accomplished. It is a story that future generations should study and remember.

1 INDIGNATION The Declaration of Independence, on which America was founded, asserted the equality of all men, yet one hundred years after the Civil War ended the fight over slavery, African Americans still suffered countless humiliations in a white-dominated Southern society. Although the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned slavery in the United States after the Civil War in 1865, most Southern states passed laws known as “Black Codes” to maintain power over the newly freed black slaves. Black Codes were a unique and legal means of controlling the economic and political freedoms of the former slaves. In addition to being a means of domination, these codes also allowed whites to maintain the white supremacy lifestyle known prior to the Civil War. Because of their legal restrictions, Black Codes placed African Americans between slavery and freedom and left them limited opportunities for advancement. The Southern white power structure used these laws to intimidate black citizens and made it clear that blacks were not respected, or considered equal by whites. As time passed, these Black Codes became known as Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow was a popular character of the traveling minstrel shows in early nineteenth-century America. The character made fun of the blacks; thus the Jim Crow image became a stereotype of black inferiority and a racial slur against blacks. The Jim Crow laws basically authorized acts of racial discrimination, legally bound blacks to second-class citizenship, and enforced a segregated society.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Montgomery, Alabama was a traditional Southern city and birthplace of the Confederacy. White citizens in Montgomery supported the institution of slavery and still openly displayed blatant discrimination practices. Throughout Montgomery, signs read “White,” or “Colored,” designating separate public facilities for its black citizens including drinking fountains, restrooms, theaters, and train stations. Unwritten social customs required blacks to tip their hats and step aside when whites went by. Conditioned to segregation, blacks were required to address whites with “Sir” and “Ma’am” and could be beaten or lynched for talking back to a white person, or breaking the code. The color of a person’s skin determined much in life. In the South, people were separated by race before they were born. They were born in segregated hospitals and buried in segregated cemeteries. In between birth and death, black children in Montgomery were excluded from libraries, parks, and pools and were not allowed to attend school with white children. White nurses were not allowed to care for black patients. It was unlawful for restaurants to serve white and black customers in the same room unless they were separated with a partition. Employers had to provide separate toilet facilities for white and black employees. Even the political system that could be used to implement change was exclusive to whites. Blacks were not allowed to hold public office and only 5 percent of Montgomery blacks were registered to vote.1 In order to keep blacks from having political power and from even registering to vote, local laws required blacks to read difficult sections of the U.S. Constitution as a literacy test in order to be qualified. If a black citizen passed the literacy test, they were then required to pay an expensive voting poll tax. With all these road blocks in place, oppression continued and the black community’s sensitivity to discrimination and segregation practices increased.

14TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Section 1.

BUS SEGREGATION One particularly hot area of resentment among Montgomery blacks was the segregation laws enforced on the public bus system. Across Montgomery 63 percent of black women and 43 percent of the black men in town



The Jim Crow image was a stereotype of black inferiority. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

were domestic workers relying on this public transportation to get to work.2 Black workers dominated a flourishing construction industry and were the backbone of trucking firms and light industry in town. Blacks were employed in shirt factories, lumber mills, and cotton gin mills with few opportunities for white-collar or managerial jobs. Five hundred black schoolteachers and Montgomery’s two black lawyers earned an average annual income of $970. Maids earned $10 per week, factory workers around $20 per week.3 This made teachers and clergymen the two groups that had the most influence in the city because of their control of the classroom and


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

the churches. Because of their lower income bracket, domestic workers couldn’t afford cars for personal transportation, so domestic workers accounted for 75 to 80 percent of the patronage on the city bus system.4 As the primary patrons of the buses, blacks were reminded twice a day of the indignity of being black in the South because they were forced by law to ride under brutally tyrannical conditions. Many U.S. states operated with busing laws that required blacks to ride in the back of the bus, but in Montgomery, bus drivers were given policeman-like authority to determine where racial divisions were enforced. “Blacks had to pay their fare in the front of the bus, then get off and re-board through the rear door for their designated seats in the back of the bus. The first ten rows of each bus were reserved for whites. The middle seats were considered ‘no-man’s-land.’ If a black person was sitting in one of the middle rows, he or she could be ordered by the driver to get up and give the seat to a white passenger. If the front and middle sections were filled, seated blacks would have to yield their places to boarding whites. At the end of the day, buses were filled with black maids, cooks, and other workers who clutched the overhead bars, swaying and falling as the bus jolted down the street, while rows in the front of the bus remained empty.”5 The cruelty of the Montgomery bus drivers was common knowledge, and it fueled racial tensions in the black community like gasoline on a fire. Many drivers would drive past a bus stop where blacks were waiting or drive off after the bus fare was paid in the front while the patron returned outside to reboard at the black entrance in the back. Some drivers would slam on their brakes to knock the standing passengers off balance or use guns to order black passengers off the bus for not having the correct change for the fare. Windows were opened on cold days to make riders uncomfortable. Once a driver closed the back door on a black woman and drove off with her arm stuck in the door. She was drug to next stop before she could get on. These types of cruelties aimed at black bus clientele contributed to the rising tension in Montgomery. Most blacks in Montgomery identified with the humiliation experienced on the buses and many had a personal grievance to claim against the service. Blacks accepted this harsh system because their only choice for change was litigation through the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the federal court system, which seemed to bring little or no results. Very few blacks wanted to tolerate the scrutiny and harassment a public court case guaranteed for the battle. Black leaders tried to reason with Montgomery authorities time and again; however, although the complaints were politely listened to, nothing ever changed. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal” educational facilities from existing in the United States under the Fourteenth Amendment. (The Fourteenth Amendment is a post-Civil War amendment ratified in 1868, which includes due process and equal protection clauses.) The court now declared “separate but equal” unconstitutional



and said segregated schools denied minority groups equal education, rights, and protection as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In addition, the court ruled that the permissive or mandatory segregation that currently existed in twenty-one states was also unconstitutional. This ruling would eliminate Montgomery’s bus seating ordinance, but no one had been willing to challenge the bus system until a fifteen-year-old high school student named Claudette Colvin eagerly stood up for herself. TEENAGE ARREST On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin was sitting about two seats from the emergency exit in “no man’s land” on the Highland Avenue bus when four white passengers boarded. With all of the seats full, the driver ordered her,

JIM CROW LAWS Jim Crow laws were an attempt by Southern whites in the late 1800s and early 1900s to maintain the status of black inferiority that slavery had created. Jim Crow was a popular character of the traveling minstrel shows in nineteenth-century America who made fun of blacks. The Jim Crow image became a stereotype of black inferiority. Jim Crow laws maintained a racial caste system, which assumed that whites were superior to blacks in intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior. The Jim Crow system supported violence if necessary, to keep blacks at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. Additionally, the Jim Crow system oppressed blacks and kept them separated from whites in public places. Whites could physically beat blacks with impunity, and blacks had little recourse against these assaults because the Jim Crow criminal justice system was all white. Lynchings were used as an extreme form of Jim Crow violence to keep blacks in their place. Life under Jim Crow Laws • Blacks were either excluded or had separate sections on boats, buses and trains, and in theaters. • White-only water fountains, rest rooms, restaurants, and stores were encouraged. • Blacks could not enter most hotels or resorts except as servants. • Blacks were only allowed in the balconies of white churches. • Although there were separate public schools for blacks, they were educated with out-of-date curriculum and the facilities were inferior. • Blacks had separate entrances into courthouses and public buildings like libraries. • Many towns had curfews for black citizens, forbidding them from being out after dark. • Literacy tests were enacted for voter registration which hindered uneducated blacks’ opportunity to change the political system. George, Charles. Life Under the Jim Crow Laws. Bel Aire, CA: Lucent, 2000.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

along with three other black women, to get up and forfeit their seats to the white passengers. Two of the women moved obediently to stand in the aisle while the other two pretended not to hear him. Colvin remained seated and continued to look out the window, ignoring the bus driver’s command that she give her seat to the white passengers. The bus driver threatened to call the police, but Colvin still did not budge. The driver left the bus to get a policeman. When they arrived, the policemen sought to negotiate rather than arrest a teenager. They tried to turn a segregation dispute into a question of chivalry and began pressuring some of the Negro men to give their seats to the women who refused to move. One man complied, but no one else would move for the last holdout, Colvin, who was steadfast. The Montgomery police officers then physically removed her from the bus, and she went kicking and struggling. Colvin was handcuffed and taken to the city jail where she was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and violating Alabama’s segregations laws. For the blacks in Montgomery, Alabama, Colvin’s arrest and conviction opened a floodgate of anger over the segregation they had lived with for so long. A Montgomery newspaper published a letter from one of the white passengers commending the police on the way they handled this bus incident. However, in contrast, the blacks “disputed the need to handcuff a high school girl. To them, Colvin had been entitled to her seat even under the hated segregation law, and for her to have been insulted, blamed and arrested on the whim of the driver was a humiliating injustice, not only to her, but to all the Negro passengers who had witnessed the arrest in helpless, fearful silence.”6 BROTHER TO ALL Edgar Daniel Nixon, a local black civil rights activist, was brought into this situation for his advice. As president of the Montgomery and state of Alabama chapters of the NAACP, Nixon had spent his life playing an important part in advancing the causes of civil rights. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1899, Nixon joined the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1928 and aligned himself with the ideas of A. Philip Randolph, which highlighted fair and equal treatment and pay for its members.7 Randolph joined Nixon to organize African American workers of the Pullman Company into a union fighting for worker rights, and he was a visible spokesperson against Jim Crow laws and an advocate for black civil rights. Nixon learned from Randolph that he did not have to enjoy a limited role in society while whites enjoyed full American citizenship. As president of the Montgomery division of the train porters union, the first successful black union in Alabama, Nixon was revered among the black community and invited to champion many local causes. As president of the Voters League of Montgomery, Alabama, in 1944, Nixon worked to get black citizens registered to vote when the local laws



required voters to read. Nixon was convinced that education was the key to lift struggling blacks out of the segregated oppression that bound them to a system they could not politically change. Respected by blacks and whites in Montgomery, Nixon was usually the first to get a call when violations of human rights occurred and blacks were arrested. He would bail them out of jail, get them a lawyer, and accept responsibility for those who were released into his care. He was a friend to all who were in trouble and seemed to derive a sense of joy from helping those who called on him. Because of his political activities, Nixon was a resourceful man, known to blacks in Montgomery as a man who would get something done—even if it wasn’t the personal justice desired. One could count on Nixon for action of some kind. As the local leader of the NAACP in Montgomery, he often worked behind the scenes. He was famous to Montgomery Negroes as the man who “knew every white policeman, judge, and government clerk in town and had always gone to see them about the grievances of any Negro who asked him for help.”8 Nixon had been looking for an issue to unite the black community and use it as a campaign to change the laws. This coincided with his hope and his lifelong personal and political crusades to facilitate more equality for blacks in all areas of life. And although other blacks had been arrested for violating Montgomery’s bus laws, Colvin’s arrest had stirred emotions in the community that Nixon knew could be used for this battle. Much pentup rage and resentment was kindled by the details of Colvin’s arrest, because she was a teenager and a female. This led to intense talk among the black community of boycotts, retaliation, and court battles. Colvin was angry at the way she had been treated, and she was ready and willing to be used for the fight. Additionally, she was the first person willing to plead “not guilty” to violating the bus laws as they stood. In preparation for the work ahead, Nixon consulted Clifford Durr, a white Alabama lawyer with influential contacts and a history for challenging sensitive issues in Washington, D.C. Durr’s involvement with the black political community had isolated him from mainstream politics, but together Nixon and Durr had connections that according to Nixon, reached high and wide among the quixotic groups that for decades had tried to build a network of support for civil rights. Nixon and Durr met with Colvin, her relatives, witnesses from the bus, and Fred Gray, one of two young black lawyers in Montgomery. They weighed the possibility of turning Colvin’s case into an attack on segregation. She was eager to fight the case, and Gray agreed to represent her. WOMEN’S POLITICAL COUNCIL Before Colvin’s arrest, blacks had worked hard to stay away from controversial issues. Nixon and the local Women’s Political Council (WPC), under the leadership of its president Jo Ann Robinson, had been working


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

together for years to coordinate legal and political efforts around Montgomery. The WPC was formed to improve social conditions for blacks and inspire them to live above mediocrity. Another goal of the organization was to elevate the black community’s level of awareness of political injustices. Members of the WPC called themselves “woman power.” The WPC team included black middle-class women who were willing to confront white political powers and force them to change Montgomery laws. Early members of the WPC lived near Alabama State College and were largely educators, principals, teachers, supervisors, and social workers. There was a limit of one hundred members per group, but Montgomery had three chapters of one hundred at various locations around the city. Next to the black churches, the WPC formed one of the best channels of communication among the community. The WPC’s first and main item of contention was the bus segregation laws. The WPC had organized a bus boycott years before, yet it had never implemented the plan for lack of support and unity among the black community. According to Gray, those who stood to gain the most—workers who rode the buses—were afraid to support a boycott for fear of being fired by their white employers. Whenever the possibility of a bus boycott was raised, people would generally shy away from the subject. The WPC had also petitioned the Montgomery City Commission countless times, presenting grievances over the bus segregation issue, which was particularly abusive to black women. Robinson, an English professor at Alabama State University, had experienced her own incident of humiliation on a Montgomery bus, which fueled her personal mission to force the city to treat black riders with respect. Robinson’s personal crusade was useless without the support of all of Montgomery’s black citizens. When Claudette Colvin was arrested and announced that she was willing to fight the charges, however, she lit a fuse of patent indignation in the black community. Robinson, along with Rosa Parks, who was secretary of the NAACP, and other black women began raising money for what was expected to be a long and difficult battle in the courts. Plans to use Colvin’s case to modify segregation laws were defeated when, because of her age, she was brought to trial in Juvenile Court. Colvin was convicted of an assault charge and sentenced to pay a small fine, but Judge Eugene Carter dismissed the segregation charge, which eliminated Gray’s plans to fight the charges in federal court. With a federal court case now null and void, Nixon felt the passion of the black community to rally behind a boycott had lost its momentum. He and other local leaders in the black community decided to wait for another champion to rally their cause. After Colvin was found guilty, many blacks voluntarily stayed off the buses for a few days out of rage, but without a cohesive corporate campaign, their personal demonstration proved ineffective.



Robinson and the WPC continued their efforts to unite the black community. Their hope for a legal case got a further boost seven months later on October 22, 1954, when another black teenager, Mary Louise Smith, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white rider. Once again, E.D. Nixon initiated plans for a community wide bus boycott, yet when he questioned Smith’s character he felt she wasn’t a suitable icon for the fight either. Frustrated with the treatment of women riders on the city buses, Robinson and other WPC members were tired of searching for the perfect symbol for their cause. Their plans for a boycott were ready and at the very first opportunity, it would be put into effect, no matter what the men said. The black women of Montgomery were ready to fight. NOTES 1. Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963, 116. 2. Nixon, And the Children Coming on, A Retrospective of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 62. 3. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 107. 4. Ibid., 58. 5. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830–1970, 88. 6. Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963, 120. 7. Nixon, And the Children Coming on, A Retrospective of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 10–11. 8. Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963, 121.

2 JUST PLAIN TIRED Rosa Parks had been in the background supporting Montgomery black leadership for years as it battled the cruel Jim Crow system. As a black female, she had personally been subjected to face-to-face injustices that fueled her desire for equality. For twelve years, “Parks, together with E.D. Nixon was the mainstay of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP throughout the 1940s and 1950s. On lunch hours, in the evenings after work, and on weekends, Parks would be in Nixon’s office, answering phones, handling correspondence, sending out press releases to newspapers, and keeping track of the complaints that flooded in concerning racial violence and discrimination.”1 Through her social activism with the NAACP, she was made aware of secret killings, rapes, beatings, and burnings of many of her black neighbors around Montgomery.2 Parks helped Nixon mobilize a voter registration drive in the black community and organized the local NAACP Youth Council, which challenged teens to integrate the local public library. Parks had personally tried to register to vote twice but had failed because of the rigid registration test for blacks. The third time she took the test, she made a copy of her answers so she could use them to bring a lawsuit against the voter registration board. She never needed them, however, because this time she successfully passed the exam.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Of all the hardships of living in the South under the Jim Crow laws, what bothered Parks and her peers the most about life in Montgomery was the constant mistreatment of black women on the public buses. She felt it was the greatest indignity for blacks to have to pay the fare in the front of the bus and then be required to return outside to board in the back. Parks had a reputation in the black community for being soft spoken and had a polite air of gentility in her mannerisms, but she had challenged several bus drivers over this practice. Some had ordered her off their buses, and one had driven off while she tried to reenter in the back of the bus. Her worst experience had occurred in the winter of 1943. Parks had paid her fair, but she refused to get off and enter through the rear door. The driver grabbed her coat, yanked her to the front door, and raised his arm threatening to strike her. Parks told the driver, “I know one thing. You better not hit me.” Instead of striking her, he threw her off the bus. Parks had noted what the driver looked like—”tall and thickset with an intimidating posture . . . a mole near his mouth.”3 Parks realized that she did not want any more run-ins with him. At the age of forty-two, Parks was also a member of the WPC, but she stayed in the background, unwilling to accompany other WPC leaders to negotiate with city and bus officials. Parks didn’t want to ask whites for any favors, but she did help raise money for local causes and court hearings because she knew exactly what it was like to be abused on the bus system. The possibility of using Claudette Colvin’s arrest to eliminate Jim Crow laws and make segregated life more respectable for blacks in Montgomery held such promise that Parks became extremely frustrated and bitter when the plans for a bus boycott to protest Colvin’s arrest were cancelled. After years of seeing no tangible results from her behind-thescenes activism, Parks had hoped Colvin’s case would be a turning point for the blacks in Montgomery. As Parks worked through her disappointment, Virginia Durr, a former sewing client, told her of an interracial workshop at Highland Folk School in Tennessee. Durr was one of the strongest anti-segregation voices in Montgomery and wanted Parks to attend the workshop designed to help blacks implement the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas, which required the integration of public schools. At Highland, Parks lived as an equal with whites for ten days. At the age of forty-two, it was one of the few times in her life when she did not feel hostility from white people. She came away from the conference with a new understanding that real change would only occur from grassroots pressure. As the weeks following her return from the workshop passed, she found it increasingly difficult to smile and be polite to the white customers of the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. To add fuel to the fire, the continued discrimination she experienced riding on the buses to and from work became increasingly

Just Plain Tired


unbearable in light of the harmony she had experienced at the Tennessee workshop. ARREST On Thursday, December 1, 1955, after sewing for white customers all day at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks waited for a bus to take her home. When the bus stopped, she deposited a dime into the fare box and re-entered the back door to take an empty seat behind the painted line on the aisle floor that divided the segregated section of the bus from the white section. She was so tired she didn’t look at the driver as she usually did. When she sat down in the first row of the black section she realized that the driver was the same one who had thrown her off a bus twelve years earlier. As she rode up the street, she remembered that humiliating incident, yet she had no idea that she was about to have another confrontation with the same bus driver that had threatened her before. This time the conflict would make her an icon that would ignite desegregation in the South.4 Three bus stops into the ride, several white passengers got on. Two sat down, filling all thirty-six seats on the bus. Twenty-two blacks sat from the rear forward and fourteen whites from the front. When one white man was left without a seat, the bus driver asked Parks and three other black passengers who filled the first row of the black section to give up their seats to the white man who stood. Initially, no one moved, and then the man in the window seat next to Parks stood up followed by two women in the row beside her. Parks ignored their action and purposely slid over to the window taking the place of the black man who had relinquished his seat. When the driver, J.P. Blake, told Parks once again to let the white man have her seat, Parks argued that she was in the right section because by sitting in the eleventh row she was acting within the law. As the driver of the bus, Blake had the ultimate discretion to enforce the segregation laws. When Parks affirmed that she would not move, she told Blake that he would have to do what he felt he had to do. Blake exited the bus and sought police to assert his authority and remove Parks. While Parks waited for the Montgomery Police to take her into custody, she remembered how her grandfather kept his shotgun by the fireplace to defend himself from the terrorization of the Ku Klux Klan.5 Whether her history with Blake made her seek this vengeance, or her sharpened sensibilities to discrimination due to her volunteer work in the NAACP, Parks adamantly stood her ground. Working with E.D. Nixon on other similar cases had taught her what to do in this situation. She was not to frown, struggle, or shout, and she shouldn’t pay any fine that would be imposed. These were the rules by which she knew to operate, because her defiance would guarantee her arrest. As she waited, she remembered how wonderful her workshop had been at Highland Folk School where she had


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Known as one of the most notoriously segregated cities in the country, Montgomery harbored feelings of hatred and abuse toward African Americans, outlawing integration in schools, public restrooms, and theatres. Municipal Codes like these gave Montgomery a way to enforce Jim Crow Laws. Cs 6, 10


Sec. 10. Separation of races—Required. Every person operating a bus line in the city shall provide equal but separate accommodations for white people and Negroes on his buses, by requiring the employees in charge thereof to assign passengers seats on the vehicles under their charge in such manner as to separate the white people from the Negroes, where there are both white and Negroes on the same car; provided however, that Negro nurses having in charge white children or sick or infirm white persons, may be assigned seats among white people. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the operators of such bus lines from separating the races by means of separate vehicles if they see fit. (Code 1938:603,606.) Sec. 11. Same—Powers of persons in charge of vehicle; passengers to obey directions. Any employee in charge of a bus operated in the city shall have the powers of a police officer of the city while in actual charge of any bus for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the preceding section, and it shall be unlawful for any passenger to refuse or fail to take a seat among those assigned to the race to which he belongs at the request of any such employee in charge, if there is such a seat vacant. (Code 1938,604.) Sec. 12. Failure to carry passengers. It shall be unlawful for any person operating a bus line in the city to refuse, without sufficient excuse, to carry any passenger; provided, that no driver of a bus shall be required to carry any passenger who is intoxicated or disorderly, or who is afflicted with any contagious or infectious disease, or who refuses to pay in advance the fare required, or who for any other reason deemed satisfactory by the recorder should be excluded. (Code 1938,699.)

been treated as an equal with other whites. It was at that moment she was convinced that she wanted all white people to treat her with that same respect.6 Although Parks didn’t board the bus with preconceived ideas of igniting the Civil Rights Movement, she had spent her adult life desiring a change in the policies and laws that had restricted her personal freedoms. Years later she said, “People always say that I didn’t give up my

Just Plain Tired


seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day . . . The only tired I was . . . was tired of giving in . . . There had to be a stopping place, and this seemed to have been the place for me to stop being pushed around. I decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being, and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama.”7 When two police officers arrived, they gave her another chance to move her seat, but she responded by asking them why they spent so much of their time pushing blacks around. One policeman gave her the courtesy of a response by saying that, “the law was the law.”8 He carried her purse and shopping bag as Parks was removed from the bus. At the police station, Parks was booked, fingerprinted, and imprisoned for violating Alabama bus segregation laws. When she was allowed to call home, her mother hysterically phoned the friend of all arrested blacks in Montgomery, E.D. Nixon. She asked Nixon to bail out Parks, his friend and coworker, as he had done for so many Montgomery blacks arrested previously. Nixon commented that every minute Parks remained in jail she was in danger. Unable to find Fred Gray, local attorney for the NAACP, Nixon called Clifford Durr, the white, activist lawyer, who volunteered to go with him to the police station to make bail for Parks. Later that evening when they took Parks home, Nixon discussed with Durr the possibility of her case being the test case the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been looking for to challenge the legality of segregated bus seating. It was scripted perfectly. Rosa Parks was a prominent and respected member of the black community who had to ride the bus every day to work for a living. She had the manners and speech of an educated woman, and there was nothing negative anyone could say about Parks except that she had been born black. As Nixon expressed it, “Her character was untouchable.” According to Durr, “The only flaw with the case as he [Durr] saw it was that the charges would first be heard in state court rather than federal court. But there were ways to move cases. Otherwise, the circumstances were highly favorable. There were no extraneous charges to cloud the segregation issue, and Rosa Parks would make a good impression on white judges because she had a firm quiet spirit, which would be needed for the long battle ahead. This was enough for Nixon; he knew instinctively that Rosa Parks was without a peer as a potential symbol for Montgomery’s Negroes—she was humble enough to be claimed by the common folk, and yet dignified enough in manner, speech and dress to command the respect of the white classes.”9 When Nixon approached Parks with the idea of fighting the charges, she felt compelled to consult her family first, because she understood how enormous the ramifications of her decision would be. Although her


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

experiences with the NAACP would be excellent training ground for the fight ahead, her husband, Raymond, was not thrilled that she would reenter this traditionally forbidden zone by choice. Parks was terrified that if she entered this very public and very political arena, her arrest would be considered more than an isolated incident and her life would be in danger.10 In spite of his warnings and her own personal concerns, Parks decided to fight on the presumption that it would make a difference for other black citizens in Montgomery. So without foresight, the wheels were now set in motion to secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. The network of local black leaders was notified. Fred Gray agreed to be Parks’ attorney. It was Gray who called Jo Ann Robinson to share the news of the coming court case. Gray knew of the WPC’s plan for a bus boycott. He felt that Robinson would agree with the other local black leaders that now was the time to implement a community wide bus boycott. Robinson did agree with Gray. She called Nixon and told him that the WPC was going to promote a one-day boycott of the city’s buses on Monday, December 5, when Parks had her day in court. Nixon concurred and told her that he would organize other black leaders at a meeting where the legal defense could be planned and the boycott marketed. He enthusiastically shared in the belief that Parks was just the one they needed to unify and rally the entire black community. Robinson began to draft a notice for distribution among the black community. At midnight, she and two of her students entered Alabama State College under the pretext of grading exams and began mimeographing 35,000 boycott notices for distribution in the black community throughout the weekend. NOTES 1. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830–1970, 97. 2. Ibid., 98. 3. Ibid., 98. 4. Ibid., 98. 5. Ibid., 108. 6. Ibid., 108. 7. Ibid., 109. 8. Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963, 130. 9. Ibid., 130. 10. Olson, 110.

3 SOMETHING BIG Overnight, Jo Ann Robinson had lined up volunteers to blanket Montgomery with leaflets urging black residents to boycott the bus system on Monday when Parks would have her day in court. Because blacks had no access to Montgomery’s white-controlled newspapers, radio or television stations, churches were used as the main source of communication for any news in the black community, including the boycott. Members of the WPC utilized its three hundred plus membership to hand out leaflets at the street corners. In addition, flyers were taken to Montgomery’s segregated black schools and sent home in student backpacks to urge parents to participate in the proposed boycott. Robinson and two students mapped out distribution routes for the notices. Members at all three divisions of the WPC covered their specific section of town. Robinson and two student helpers spent the day dropping off bundles of leaflets at schools, businesses, beauty parlors, shops, beer halls, and factories. Workers were told to pass out the leaflet to employees and customers. By two o’clock thousands of mimeographed handbills had changed hands across Montgomery. As Robinson and members of the WPC handed out the leaflets all morning, E.D. Nixon was making preparations of his own. Following Parks’ arrest, he called black community leaders as well as the pastors of all the local black churches to discuss Parks’ defense and the black community’s possible plan of action. Nixon sought their support for the boycott and encouraged them to attend an organizational meeting that afternoon at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Dexter’s location was


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

central to all the other black churches and to the leaders who worked in downtown locations. Nixon told Dexter’s pastor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that only through a boycott would it become “clear to the white folks that we will not accept this type of treatment any longer.”1 Ralph Abernathy, a local pastor and friend of King’s, was also making a pitch to King, trying to get him involved in the boycott organization. King had only been pastor at Dexter a little over a year. He told Abernathy that he was struggling to finish his doctoral dissertation in addition to having a new baby at home and wasn’t sure he had the time to devote to local politics until his personal life settled down. King also argued that in order to be sufficiently prepared, he needed to get to know the city leaders a little better before joining any political crusades. However, Abernathy reminded King that opportunities are not always convenient, or chosen, and ready or not, the time was here and the time was now. Abernathy told King this was an “opportunity for leadership that could not be ignored. Until now, with a few exceptions, the black ministers of Montgomery had shied away from any attempt to fight segregation and discrimination. If they didn’t respond this time, who knew what would happen to their credibility.”2 King told Abernathy that he would come to the meeting with an open mind. Meanwhile, as Nixon finished his phone calls he included a call to Joe Azbell, the city editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. Nixon promised Azbell a hot story. Azbell met Nixon at the train station where he worked as a porter before he left for a trip to Atlanta and then New York. For the promise to “play it up” in Sunday’s paper, Nixon told Azbell about the proposed boycott and local black leadership’s goal to organize the black community using Rosa Parks’ arrest to fight bus segregation. In the past, the black community in Montgomery had shown an appalling lack of unity among its leadership. Although Nixon was uneducated, he was a respected activist, as well as former president of the NAACP and the Progressive Democrats. The NAACP and the WPC had worked together on several issues, but they also competed for civil rights leadership, and there were other small groups like The Citizens Steering Committee, The Urban League, and The NAACP Council on Human Relations, which divided the Negro community. According to Ralph Abernathy, “While the heads of each of these organizations were able, dedicated leaders with common aims, their separate allegiances made it difficult for them to come together on the basis of a higher unity.” ORGANIZING Nonetheless, late that Friday afternoon, December 2, 1955, about sixty leaders assembled in the basement of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The leadership gathering encompassed different dynamics of the black community, including physicians, schoolteachers, lawyers, businessmen, postal workers, union leaders, and clergymen. Jo Ann Robinson informed

Something Big


those in attendance that the initial response from the black community was one of support for the boycott. She challenged them to join in the wishes of their congregations and shepherd the people they were called to lead through this political statement. She made it clear that with or without their leadership the WPC fully intended to implement the bus boycott on Monday. Half of those assembled left before the meeting was over, because they did not want to be associated with Montgomery politics. The other half remained and agreed to pass word of the boycott throughout the community and to their church congregations during Sunday morning assemblies. Special committees were set up to help the boycott be successful. Particular attention was given to supplemental transportation for Monday’s boycott. To help those who walked, volunteer car pools needed to be set up to pick up walkers, and black taxi drivers had to be notified. Routes were mapped out to get workers to all sections of the city. It was decided to hold a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, the largest and most central black church in the community, on Monday night following the first day of the boycott to evaluate the day’s success. The next step would be determined then, and future plans established as to whether the boycott should continue or not. Holt Street had a large main auditorium and a big basement that could accommodate hundreds. Smaller rooms in the church were equipped with loud speakers, and there was a large outdoor area as well. With plans in place the leaders decided to regroup on Monday afternoon to finalize plans before the mass meeting. A new leaflet was drafted by the group that consolidated the information Robinson had been distributing that morning and added, “Don’t ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or anyplace Monday, December 5 . . . If you work, take a cab, share a ride, or walk.” Then one final sentence, “Come to a mass meeting Monday at 7:00 pm at the Holt Street Baptist Church for further instruction.” 3 This invitation was the beginning of what would be the basis of the boycott’s success. Black ministers were uniting to lead action for community improvement. It was the ministers who would give the confidence, faith, and leadership to follow through in the days ahead. As the meeting continued, some volunteers mimeographed more of the updated flyers while others phoned black taxi drivers, giving them advance notice that they would be called upon to help on Monday. Over the weekend preparations went forward and enthusiasm in the community grew. To blanket the city with information, the city was divided into districts and individuals were assigned in each area to pass out the flyers encouraging black citizens to stay off the buses and to be present at Monday night’s meeting to review the boycott situation and decide what to do next. On Saturday morning more than two hundred volunteers showed up to pass out leaflets, going from house to house and store to store. With clergy prepared to announce the boycott from their pulpits on Sunday, the team felt every base was covered—almost. Ralph Abernathy said, “It occurred


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

to us the ‘saints’ would get the message, but what about the hard core of blacks, most of them men who just didn’t go to church, or associate with church people.” 4 Because these men had as much of an investment in the success of the boycott as anyone else, King and Abernathy decided to frequent the bars and clubs urging them to participate in the boycott Monday morning and join the others at the mass meeting Monday night. PULPIT ENDORSEMENT On Sunday most black pastors requested support for the boycott from their pulpits. Another unexpected stroke of luck came when the Sunday edition of the Montgomery Advertiser ran a story about the upcoming boycott on its front page. Azbell used the information Nixon had given him and ran a story headlined, “Negro Groups Ready Boycott of Bus Lines.” Azbell’s objective in running the news was to inform the white readership of the black community’s intentions. However, printing the story along with a copy of the flyer making its way around Montgomery on the front page of Sunday’s newspaper actually helped to spread the message of the pending boycott throughout the black community. Azbell’s story focused on a secret meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church on Monday night. He explained that the meeting was organized by Montgomery’s black leaders who were planning the boycott. In retaliation to the information they received in the article, Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers appeared on local television and radio stations Sunday evening to assure the Negro population that he would give them police protection if they chose to ride the buses on Monday. He alluded to rumors that blacks would be intimidating other blacks to keep them off the buses andwanted bus patrons not to be frightened. The answer to how well the people would respond to this organized campaign was to come at daybreak. No one knew if private car owners would give absolute strangers a ride. No one knew if black taxi drivers would keep their promises, or if

This following information was passed through the Montgomery community on mimeographed sheets to announce the day one of the boycott, which began the protest. “Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown into jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses on Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on a Monday.”

Something Big


black bus riders would stay off the buses. The threat of cold and rain in the weather forecast intensified the anxiety of boycott organizers who wondered how successful the staged protest would be. MONDAY BRINGS A NEW DAY When Monday morning arrived, virtually all of Montgomery’s black population stayed off the buses.5 Contrary to the empty bus stops, blacks who made up 75 percent of the ridership and accounted for 30,000 fares each day were filling the streets.6 The sidewalks were alive with black maids, cooks, and domestic employees walking to work and singing to themselves. Abernathy noted that, “In spite of the bitter morning cold,

Rosa Parks, E. D. Nixon, and Fred Gray in court on the first day of the boycott. Parks became the image of the boycott. (© Associated Press)


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Empty buses passed through the streets of Montgomery throughout the boycott. Blacks walked in spite of harassment. The Montgomery police publicly announced that they would arrest anyone trying to integrate public buses. (© Associated Press)

their fear of white people and their desperate need for wages, Montgomery Negroes were turning the City Bus Lines into a ghost fleet.” 7 It continued all day long, and, during what would be the afternoon peak, the buses were still empty. Students from Alabama State College were walking or thumbing rides. Job holders found other means of transportation or walked. Some men were seen riding mules to work and more than one horse-drawn buggy drove down the streets of Montgomery. Spectators gathered at bus stops to see what was happening, and as the day progressed, some in the audience began to cheer and laugh and make jokes at the empty buses as they passed. Police cars manned by officers with helmets and shotguns, which had been ordered by Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers to follow many of the buses in anticipation of dealing with blacks who might use intimidation to keep other blacks from riding the buses, proved unnecessary. The only arrest that was made was of a nineteen-year-old boy who helped an old woman into his car to give her a ride as an alternative to walking. The police commissioner’s plan had backfired, because there were no “goon squads” using intimidation to keep blacks from riding the buses.

Something Big


Black people were voluntarily boycotting the buses, and when they saw the heavily armed policemen swarming bus stops they chose to stay away from the stops and avoid a confrontation. When Parks’ case convened at 9 am in downtown Montgomery, the city courthouse and streets outside the building were packed with supporters. Normally the only people at segregation cases were the defendants whose cases were being tried, but on this day blacks lined the walls and hall all the way to the clerk’s office. The segregated courtroom highlighted the underlying issue of the case about to be tried before them. The room was divided with whites on one side and blacks on the other. Parks commented that “a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I could feel that whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone.”8 Clifford Durr assured Parks that the law was on her side, because no other seat had been available on the bus the day she refused to move. However, because the Alabama state laws gave bus drivers arbitrary rule over passengers, she ended up being convicted in a trial that lasted less than five minutes. Parks was fined $10 plus the $4 court costs. Fred Gray filed an appeal citing grounds that Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. Although the conviction was expected, Park’s sentencing was not the end of the subject, but the beginning. While Gray and Parks went to make bail, some supporters threatened officers that they would storm the courthouse if she didn’t return. In 1954, this open display of defiance by blacks in the Deep South was unheard of. There was a new air of energy in the black community of Montgomery, Alabama. Abernathy noted that, “The success of the boycott had given them hope and the trial had rekindled their anger.”9 THE MONTGOMERY IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION Later that afternoon following the trial, the black leadership team Nixon had called together to implement the boycott met to discuss the need to carry on with the protest and to organize the evening’s advertised mass meeting. The hope was that the leaders could unify as well as the community had. King had called Reverend T.J. Jemison who had organized a similar boycott two years before in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to protest that city’s segregated bus system. Although the Baton Rouge bus boycott had only lasted eight days and received little media attention, it was a plumb line for the struggle in equality. In an effort at justice for Baton Rouge’s black bus riders, Jemison had gained approval from his local city council to pass an ordinance allowing blacks to sit on the bus from back to front. When the city’s bus drivers ignored it, Baton Rouge blacks developed a successful car pool system and boycotted the buses. After eight days the boycott was called off when a compromise gave blacks the right to sit on the buses anywhere they wanted after the front two rows. King obtained information from Jemison to share with


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Montgomery leadership on making their boycott successful should it continue beyond one day.10 In addition, Abernathy and King had discussed some possible actions between bar stops on Saturday night that they hoped would eliminate an individual power struggle. They felt that in order to be successful, the leadership team should formally organize into a new group to eradicate the fight for power and to separate from the failures of the past. Nixon was reluctant to accept this proposal when they originally presented the idea. He believed that the NAACP, as Montgomery’s oldest black organization, should carry on the fight.11 However, because the NAACP had few political accomplishments to rally around, he agreed that the new organization would capitalize on the success of the boycott and lend a positive structure to future action. Forming a new organization would also be a new banner to rally behind to keep the community unified. Its formation would send out a huge message to the whites that the blacks meant business in their demands. After much discussion, it was decided that the new group be called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Many of the ministers in attendance said they did not want to confront Montgomery’s white establishment or to speak publicly on the boycott that night during the meeting at Holt Street Church. After years of working for this moment, Nixon furiously warned them that he’d get up at the meeting and expose them as cowards—a leadership that was too scared to help implement a program fighting the segregation that Montgomery’s black citizens finally seemed ready to support. Nixon said the women had been taking the brunt of the arrests while the men backed off. “You ministers have lived off these wash women for the last hundred years and ain’t never done nothing for them . . . now’s the time to be men.”12 Martin Luther King Jr. told the group he wasn’t a coward and that the group should be willing to operate openly, using their own names. He knew the community would need the pastors’ influence and position to stay organized, unified, and motivated for the battle ahead.13 As the meeting continued, hymns, prayers, and speakers were chosen for the mass meeting. Officers were selected representing every significant black organization in town. E.D. Nixon from the Progressive Democrats became the first treasurer and also served on the negotiating team. Rufus Lewis, head of the Citizen’s Committee, and Jo Ann Robinson, president of the WPC, became part of the negotiating team and the executive board while R.L. Matthews, current head of the local NAACP, also joined the executive board. It was Nixon who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. to be the group’s president. Nixon had heard King address an NAACP meeting and had been impressed with his abilities. King was unanimously chosen as the president of the MIA. He noted later that it happened so quickly that he did not even have time to think it through. Many of the established black pastors were happy to vote King in because all they saw ahead was danger. King was new enough in town not to have

Something Big


any enemies in the political structure; additionally his charisma made him an obvious choice as a leader. Under his direction the MIA would recommend at the mass meeting that the boycott continue until changes were made in the Montgomery bus system. Abernathy said that, “With good organization in place and with King to head it, everyone felt a sudden surge of joy. Something important had happened in that room and we sensed it.”14 Not only was the black community coming together, but the leaders of the community were submitting to one another for the corporate good. It was late Monday afternoon before the first meeting of the MIA concluded. King, as the newly elected leader of the MIA and the bus boycott, had one hour to work on the speech he was to give to the community at large, which was to gather at Holt Street. Unsure of where the protest would lead, King was fully committed to motivate those who were willing to support the fight for change. The full impact of what was about to commence became more evident as King arrived at Holt Street Baptist Church. A traffic jam on the way to the meeting required that he get out of his car several blocks from the church and walk through the crowds that had gathered in order to get to the meeting on time. There were thousands of blacks milling about in the streets and across the neighborhood. There were so many gathered that the church yard was too small to contain them. The black community was enjoying its newfound sense of freedom. After a day of challenging the bus authority, the church was surrounded with a community eager to hear what was next. King told Abernathy who was with him as he walked through the crowds, “This could turn into something big.”15 NOTES 1. Brooks, The Walls Came Tumbling Down, 97. 2. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 114. 3. Branch, Parting the Waters, 133. 4. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, 140. 5. Branch, 135. 6. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 77. 7. Ibid., 135. 8. Olson, 115. 9. Abernathy, 126. 10. Loiner. The New Crisis. Crisis Publishing Co., Jul/Aug 2003. 11. Abernathy, 144. 12. Olson, 115. 13. Branch, 137. 14. Abernathy, 149. 15. Branch, 138.

4 THE LEADER Martin Luther King Jr. had only been a full-time pastor in Montgomery for three months when Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus and was arrested. In January 1954, King became acquainted with Montgomery when he drove from Atlanta, Georgia, to be a guest speaker at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. When he arrived, Ralph Abernathy, one of his father’s friends, met him and took him to see the church where he was to preach the following morning. Downtown Montgomery was beautiful. Reminders of the Civil War were evident in the architecture, the town’s history, and its behavior.1 The Alabama state capitol was located directly across the street from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was at this capitol building that Alabama had seceded from America before the Civil War, declared itself an independent Confederate State, and elected Jefferson Davis as its president. It was on Montgomery’s capitol steps that the first Confederate flag was unfurled. The capitol stood as a vivid reminder that Montgomery was buried deep in Southern tradition and proudly bore the title “Cradle of the Confederacy.” Southern tradition was exemplified in the city’s culture, in its appearance, and in its laws that supported the Jim Crow philosophy. “The ‘official’ white southern square was an odd place for a black church, but Dexter had been built in reconstruction days when blacks were enjoying their brief freedom after the Civil War.”2 Dexter Avenue Baptist Church had been built during the reconstruction of Montgomery following the Civil War. In 1954, it was one of the few black properties still left in downtown Montgomery. Most black property owners had been forced to relocate to the segregated


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

sections of the city. But Dexter “remained almost as a symbol of the African American aspirations,” according to Coretta King.3 Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was in need of a pastor. The church had heard about King from his father, a pastor in Atlanta. After King preached and left Montgomery, his impression was that the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church had much potential. The church occupied a central place in the Montgomery community and had many influential black leaders and respected professionals among its membership. One month later, King received a letter from the church saying he had been unanimously called to pastor the church. Two other churches in the East, however, had also expressed interest in hiring him. Likewise, three colleges were seeking King for a teaching position, a deanship, and an administrative position. According to King, as he considered all the career possibilities at his disposal, he was leaning toward his desire for ministry. When he thought of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, he was reminded of the segregation that was so prevalent in southern culture, a segregation that he had escaped when he left Atlanta to be a student in the North. Segregation he had grown to resent.4 EARLY YEARS King had a vivid boyhood memory of his father walking out of a shoe store because he was asked to move to the segregated section of the store. His father refused to ride segregated city buses, and once, when his father was being arrested, the older King had challenged a policeman to call him by his proper name. King grew up seeing his father command respect and dignity in spite of the Jim Crow laws that belittled blacks who lived in the South. This heritage was instilled in King Jr., and challenged him to do what he could to cultivate better living conditions for other blacks.5 Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, but his father changed both their names when his son was five years old to Martin Luther, in honor of the German Protestant reformer. In his earlier years, King’s mother was credited for influencing him through her example of quiet strength and temperament.6 As he grew, King showed much talent in school and was exceptionally bright. Because King scored unusually high on the college entrance examinations during his junior year of high school, he went on to Morehouse College without a formal high school graduation. This was remarkable, because King had previously skipped the ninth grade as well, so that he was only fifteen when he entered Morehouse. While he was at Morehouse, King’s eyes were opened to the protected life that he had led in his father’s care. Higher education awakened his social consciousness. His studies had revealed techniques and theologies that were being implemented in other parts of the world which empowered blacks and created more equal

The Leader


societies. After Morehouse, King moved to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, to earn his Bachelor of Divinity degree and then to Boston University to work on his doctorate degree. As he studied, he was captivated with social gospel that focused on connecting the entire man: body and soul. King was deeply influenced by the success of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent social movement, which had been used in India against the British colonists to help Indians make major strides in their culture. King wanted to use Gandhi’s nonviolent techniques as a model for his own ministry style to encourage effective social change. King and Coretta Scott, whom he married in 1953, were comfortable with the lifestyle integrated Northern society offered. As they considered the career options before them, they felt a Northern city would offer the most financial benefits and social freedom. However, they also agreed that in spite of obvious disadvantages and personal sacrifices that segregation would impose on their private lives, the greatest area for ministry opportunities to make a difference would be in their native South. King questioned whether he could return to a society that condoned a system of prejudice that he had despised since childhood. Coretta remembered, “Though I was opposed to going to Montgomery, I realize now that it was an inevitable part of a greater plan for our lives. Even in 1954 I felt my husband was being prepared—and I too—for a special role about which we would learn more later . . . We felt a sense of destiny, of being propelled in a certain positive direction. We had the feeling that something remarkable was unfolding in the South and we wanted to be on hand to witness it.”7 The goal was to educate the congregation for a few years and work on the problems of segregation through local ministry. With this decision behind them, the Kings headed for Alabama. Of this move, Coretta would say, “I seem to have known then, too, that though being pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was very important, Martin’s special qualities, and special training were going to take him beyond this point and that this experience at Dexter would be— for both of us—another step toward our destiny.”8 MONTGOMERY’S NEW PASTOR King arrived in Montgomery in May 1954. With his dissertation being the only thing separating him from his doctorate degree, he was one of the most educated black pastors in town. Between May and September he commuted by plane between Boston and Montgomery while he finished the dissertation and divided his time between his church and his studies. His full-time pastorate began September 1 when he and Coretta moved into the parsonage. Although King had come to pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, what was about to take place in Montgomery under his leadership was more than anyone could foresee. “Martin had ideas about the means of attaining freedom, while I had an understanding of


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Montgomery. Together we formulated a plan to turn the city into a model of social justice and racial amity.”9 King’s civil rights activities became an extension of his ministry. Although he was only twenty-six years old at this time, his background and education had prepared him for leadership. He was ambitious and had a good head for strategy and drama. His great-grandfather had been a slave preacher, and his grandfather and father had given him charismatic influence, poise, and good management skills. He was a good listener and skilled at amplifying the aspirations of his congregation. The Gandhian influence of nonviolence that King was implementing in his ministry was to become an effective tool of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King’s charismatic preaching style delivered inspirational messages from the pulpit which challenged, motivated, and unified the black community. According to Louis E. Lomax, author of The Negro Revolt, King helped “Negros understand how they themselves feel and why they feel as they do; and he is the first Negro minister I have ever heard who can reduce the Negro problem to a spiritual matter and yet inspire the people to seek a solution on this side of the Jordan.”10 According to Abernathy, Martin was very forthcoming in his advocacy of an active program to force issues and bring about freedom more rapidly. He was committed to the preaching of a social gospel that would awaken the Christian churches and mobilize them in the fight against segregation. Both King and Abernathy saw the possibilities of applying the same methods Gandhi had used to eliminate segregation and discussed it often. King noted that he would need to “establish his credibility in the black community before he could hope to lead them into a nonviolent crusade for freedom. He also wanted to gain the respect and trust of those progressive white leaders whose help might prove invaluable in the struggle.”11 One year into his ministry at Dexter, King decided to step up his activity in the local chapter of the NAACP. His grandfather had been a charter member of the organization, and now he was invited to give a speech at one of the small gatherings that led to him accepting a position on the executive committee. When King’s methods were successful in Montgomery, he became conscious of the tremendous responsibility placed on his shoulders as a hero across America. This success thrust him into an international arena, which following World War II, was ripe for the implementation of human rights. King’s rise to fame was to begin in Montgomery on December 5, 1954, at the Holt Street Baptist Church mass meeting where he was presented to the black citizens as the president of the MIA and the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. NOTES 1. Clayborne, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., 42. 2. Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., 93.

The Leader


3. Ibid., 93. 4. Clayborne, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., 10. 5. Ibid., 10. 6. Ibid., 3. 7. Clayborne, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., 45. 8. King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., 95. 9. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography, 129. 10. Brooks, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: A History of the Civil Rights Movement, 100. 11. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography, 130.

5 CREATING A LEGACY At the end of just one day of boycotting Montgomery’s buses, the black community was empowered with a new sense of excitement for the freedom they had craved since the end of the Civil War. Holt Street Baptist Church, located in the heart of the black section of town, was packed and overflowing. Cars were parked six and seven blocks away in every direction. Inside the church, which could only seat one thousand people, The Montgomery Advertiser reported that more than seven thousand filled the sanctuary, balcony, basement, aisles, lawn, and streets outside. Leaders of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) pushed their way to the front of the church through the crowds that had gathered to present their ideas and instructions on what to do next. Light bulbs flashed and pictures were taken followed by ten minutes of clapping and cheering. It was a celebration of boldness, unity, and personal victory that began the meeting, as well as an eagerness for a new way of life. Ralph Abernathy, pastor of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church, came to the podium to greet the crowd and calm the ongoing pep rally. Many of the faces in the pews had tears streaming down their cheeks. Abernathy noted, “Out of a sense of newfound freedom, not cheering us so much as cheering themselves for what they had done that day, what we had all done with dignity and courage, they had done what Mayor Tacky Gayle and the rest of the whites had said was impossible.”1 Edgar French read the strategy that the MIA had composed that afternoon. He explained the reasons for establishing the MIA to provide formal leadership of the boycott and to show the white community that the blacks of Montgomery


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

meant business. He also outlined the details of extending the boycott indefinitely. It had been predetermined during the MIA formation that afternoon that the size of the crowd gathered for the meeting would determine if the interest level was sufficient enough to continue a bus boycott successfully. Based on the turnout at Holt Street Baptist Church, Abernathy and the rest of the MIA leadership team had no doubt about what the community’s response would be toward pursuing further protest. When Abernathy asked those present if they wanted to end the boycott after one day, he was answered with shouts of, “No” both in and outside the church. One speaker after another addressed the masses from the podium challenging those gathered to pursue freedom and equality. “Uh-huh’s,” “Amen’s,” and “That’s right” echoed from the assembly in affirmation to their speeches. Messages of challenge and enthusiasm were heard blocks away through loud speakers that had been set up in the streets for those who were unable to fit into the church. Rosa Parks’ arrest and the mass meeting created an opportunity for people to compare their personal stories of abuse on Montgomery buses. This helped to create a bond of unity among the group. After fighting his way through the crowds outside the church, twentysix-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. barely had enough time to enter the church before he took his turn at the podium. King stood silently before the crowd and then began his address with a voice of patriotism. King reminded those gathered of their rights as American citizens and argued that Parks’ arrest was an example of a problem that had existed for far too many years. He held the congregation with his dramatic delivery and his charismatic presence. As the crowd actively joined his presentation with declarations of “Amen” and “You know it,” King stirred their emotions before he questioned the legality of the city’s segregation ordinances. “There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.”2 He added there comes a time when the only recourse is protest. He reminded those present of the tactics employed by the White Citizens’ Council and the Ku Klux Klan, methods which led to violence and lawlessness. Individual acknowledgement became cheers of agreement uniting the crowd in one voice of support. King continued to mesmerize them with his content and compelling delivery. In alignment with his personal philosophy, King reminded those present that the only weapon that would be acceptable and bring fairness on city buses would be to continue employing the weapon of nonviolent protest that had worked so successfully over the last year. He emphasized to the crowd that the success of a continued boycott depended on everyone responding in the same passive way. Abernathy said, “The lesson was crucial. We were asking these people to go in to the streets and to accept whatever punishment the white community had to offer, whether jail, or beating, or death, and we were asking them to

Creating a Legacy


Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the first boycott mass meeting at Holt Street hours after being elected as the leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association—an organization of leaders who supported and encouraged the boycott. (© Associated Press)

take this risk without ever raising a hand in their own defense, so it was only fair that they understand thoroughly why they were being asked to do something so contrary to human nature.”3 According to Abernathy, “It was absolutely essential that the decent people in the community as well as in the nation at large see Jim Crow for what it really was—an oppressive system maintained by the persistent threat of violence. It was that violence we wanted to expose. For only when it came out from behind the mask of legalism and respectability could people of good will fully understand our predicament and act to free us.”4 King closed his emotional address reminding those present of the need for unity and dignity during the boycott. He challenged the black community to create a legacy of honor during the protest, so history would remember them as a people with self-respect who were willing to stand up for their personal rights as American citizens. This speech at Holt Street Baptist Church would be looked back on as King’s first political address.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Ralph Abernathy followed King on the podium and introduced the crowd to Rosa Parks, as the new symbol of the movement. She was joined on the stage with Fred Daniels, the only man who had been arrested that day during the boycott for allegedly preventing a black woman from riding a bus. Parks and Daniels received a standing ovation, which invigorated the already enthusiastic crowd. Abernathy read the list of demands the MIA had written that afternoon as a resolution. It requested three demands of public transportation: (1) treat blacks with respect; (2) blacks should not be forced to give up their seats for whites; and (3) blacks should be hired as bus drivers. By the time Abernathy was finished, cheers of agreement gave support for the MIA leaders to continue the boycott with confidence. It was decided that weekly mass meetings would be held every Monday at the Holt Street church and every Thursday at various other locations for the length of the boycott. The boycott’s success would be closely tied to the black church culture. When mass meetings were held, Scripture was read, black spirituals were sung, prayers were prayed, and those gathered responded to the church-style presentation of the leaders with “Amen’s.” This style enabled the diverse group of professors, porters, maids, laborers, doctors, and even drunks to abandon rank and class and come together in unity. To disseminate information, a newsletter was produced by Jo Ann Robinson. The newsletter became a primary source of information for the boycotters. Robinson would take notes at the MIA executive board meetings. Every family who sent their name to Robinson received the newsletter, including people outside of Montgomery. The newsletter reported on negotiations with the city officials, and helped to bring in money to the MIA treasury. The newsletter began as four legal-sized pages but was enlarged and grew to eight pages before the boycott was over. It became an essential link in the communications system to keep boycotters informed of the MIA perspective. The day after the boycott began, King met with the press to make it clear that the boycott would only end when the black community’s demands were met. He stressed that the request was modest and reasonable and should pose no problem for local authorities. King was aware of the problems that would need to be addressed for the boycott to continue successfully: an effective transportation system, fund-raising, and a program committee to coordinate regular mass meetings. The most important order of business was getting the transportation committee organized and running to ensure a system of automobiles that would guarantee everyone a ride, cocoordinating pick-up stations, and manning a dispatch system. The MIA would also need a headquarters and an office staff to answer questions and guide the black community. The MIA hired four paid staff members who were charged with running the organization’s day-to-day operation: Emma Dungee, the financial

Creating a Legacy


secretary; Maude Ballou, Dr. King’s personal secretary; Martha Johnson, general secretary and clerk, who helped all the leaders of the MIA; and Hazel Gregory, who was the general overseer and managed the business of running the MIA office. These four women were assisted by hundreds of volunteers as they were needed. After moving from one temporary space to another, the group settled in an available space in the Bricklayers Union building. Dr. King had a private office, as did his secretary. There was a business room to host guests and meetings. Dungee and Ballou also had personal business offices. Additionally, it was King’s desire to assemble the best minds of the MIA leadership team into an executive committee to help with strategic decisions. The leaders he assembled to put together the necessary subcommittees included: E.D. Nixon, who was indispensable among the black community; Fred Gray, for legal advice; A.W. Wilson, who was an excellent organizer; and Euretta Adair, who combined passion and academia. His leadership list also included Jo Ann Robinson who had spent years involved in city affairs, as well as businessmen, ministers, and lay leaders of the black community. FINANCES As the boycott continued, Montgomery’s story became known across the world and people responded to the plight of the Southern Negro with financial donations to help facilitate the cause. The MIA came to rely on monies collected through mass meetings, the NAACP, and Northern churches that were sympathetic to the boycotters’ cause. Northern white organizations also sent large sums of money from labor and peace organizations. The United Auto Workers Union in Detroit alone gave $35,000 to the cause. The MIA had several checking and savings accounts deposited in various banks of nine states to keep them liquid. That way if one bank froze its funds, overall operations could continue. An offering was taken each week at the mass meetings. The spirit of giving was generous and people gave money proudly. Georgia Gilmore, a bus boycotter who had once been arrested herself, became one of the most generous supporters. She organized a group called the “Club from Nowhere,” which worked privately each week to raise funds to give at the weekly meetings. Members baked cakes and pies to sell at their places of work. Each week a member of the group would present the cash donation. Gilmore’s group generated so much energy that another group, “The Friendly Club,” organized to compete with it and also began to generate a steady stream of income for the boycott treasury. This friendly competition generated much entertainment at the Monday night mass meetings. People gave offerings as a means of helping fund and promote the boycott cause.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

NOTES 1. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 116. 2. Burns, Daybreak of Freedom, 94. 3. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, 152. 4. Ibid., 152.

6 CHALLENGES TO OVERCOME On Thursday, December 8, the fourth day of the boycott, leaders of the MIA including King, Ralph Abernathy, Jo Ann Robinson, Fred Gray, and eight others met at City Hall with Montgomery Mayor W.A. “Tacky” Gayle, Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers, and Frank Parks representing the city, as well as J.H. Bagley who managed the bus lines and Jack Crenshaw, the attorney for Montgomery City Lines. Understanding the history of previous stalemate negotiations they had experienced, the MIA asked for the transportation system to hire black bus drivers along with the demand for courtesy and first-come seating. The desire was that the city might refuse to hire black bus drivers but grant the other two demands to save face publicly. The MIA placed four demands on the table for negotiation. The team announced to the city and bus leaders that Montgomery’s black citizens would continue to boycott city buses until bus patrons were allowed to be seated on a first-come, first-served basis. They also wanted all sections reserved for race removed, more courteous treatment of black passengers, and black drivers hired for black bus routes. The bus company’s manager, J.H. Bagley, had studied the integrated city transit system in Mobile, Alabama, where blacks filled the bus from the back to front and whites from the front to back. Bagley told the commissioners that the system worked without incident and that the plan functioned with great cooperation. However, Montgomery officials refused to try it, saying blacks would not want to return to the current plan if it became necessary.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Mayor W. A. Gayle was the public face of opposition to an early resolution in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (© Associated Press)

Montgomery’s City Bus Line attorney, Jack Crenshaw, closed the negotiations down immediately, saying the terms were impossible because of municipal segregation laws. Crenshaw said the bus company would do everything possible to serve its passengers, but that it could not change the law. He added that the company had absolutely no intentions of hiring black drivers. Although the MIA emphasized the goal of the boycott

Challenges to Overcome


was not to change the segregation law, but merely to better conditions for Montgomery Negroes, the white council wouldn’t budge. Representatives from the MIA reminded them that the bus boycott would continue until these changes were made; however, the four-hour meeting ended without compromise. That evening in the Montgomery Advertiser, Bagley announced that it would be necessary to reduce service in areas where there were no passengers if the boycott continued. By Saturday, bus service was suspended indefinitely in predominately black areas. Additionally, eight other bus routes were cut or halted completely. This was actually of benefit to the boycott because without bus service, no one would be tempted to ride a bus. NEGOTIATIONS DEADLOCK Ten days later, leaders from the MIA met with bus and city officials again. This time King began the meeting with a concession that the MIA was no longer asking for black drivers to be hired immediately, but only as jobs became available. Race issues dominated the meeting, because white council leaders wanted to keep the advantage in the negotiations. One minister on the council proposed that the MIA call off the boycott, stating it created a hostile atmosphere that was not conducive for the negotiations to be successful. King commented that the council refused to compromise during the negotiations for fear of giving black leaders an advantage. Dialogue was at an impasse. The new strategy seemed to be who would wear down first, or hold out the longest. When it became obvious that the boycott was not going to collapse, city government decided on a get-tough policy. On January 18, Police Commissioner Sellers denounced the MIA leaders as Negro radicals and publicly announced that he refused to negotiate with them any longer. He added that blacks could not loiter in white residential districts and that it was his personal intent that blacks would not destroy Montgomery’s transportation system. According to Anna Holden who interviewed Sellers as part of a study of the Montgomery bus situation commented, “There is no doubt in my mind that he is exploiting the situation to his best advantage, but at the same time, I think he is exploiting in terms of something he believes in.”1 Two days after these deadlocked talks, King and the MIA submitted a statement to the Montgomery Advertiser stating that Negroes in Montgomery felt they had a right to insist that the law be administered fairly. A half-page ad on Christmas Day in the Montgomery Advertiser and the Alabama Journal informed the public about their complaints and listed their reasons for continuing the bus boycott including: unjust arrests, drivers charging blacks with two bus fares, drivers refusing to make fare change, physical torture, and drivers driving off and leaving passengers who had paid their fares. It was noted that committees of both sexes had


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

filed protests with the mayor, but no improvement had been made. King encouraged the mass meeting to remain determined, “until the cause of justice triumphs.” With negotiations at a gridlock, both sides dug in for a long battle. As the boycott continued, membership in Montgomery’s White Citizens Council mushroomed. The mayor and several city officials joined the council to show their support for the hard-line segregationist view of the cause. In an interview with Anna Holden, who was studying the Montgomery bus situation for Fisk University, Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers said, “this boycott has done damage that can never be repaired. It has done more harm to the Nigra cause than anything else. It will take twentyfive years to build up the good feeling that it has torn down. You know, the Nigras in Montgomery were treated better than anyplace else. They got everything from the whites—they went to the whites for everything they wanted and they got it. You should see the schools and the churches the white people here built for them. They are still giving them money for things, but they are giving it reluctantly now, they don’t want to do it anymore. They keep on because they feel sorry for them. They know that most of the Nigras here don’t really want this thing and that they are suffering.”2 In hopes of ending the boycott, city officials went after the taxi companies who were providing transportation for boycotting blacks at bus fare rates. A new law was created requiring black cab companies to charge a minimum of forty-five cents per passenger, instead of the ten cents a ride they were currently charging. With the taxi pools under fire, King announced that they would organize a private car pool of volunteer drivers to meet the transportation needs of the boycotters. But with a daily need of 20,000 rides, each volunteer would need to give 130 rides per day.3 ROLLING CHURCHES The magnitude of running the bus boycott filled each day with operational details. Seventeen thousand blacks had utilized the bus system at least twice a day, so the MIA immediately went to work developing the private system. Because national media coverage of the boycott was bringing in donations of support from all over the country, the MIA took the money that was donated and purchased each black church in Montgomery a station wagon to be used for transporting boycott members of their churches to and from work. The station wagons were registered as property of the church and had the churches name painted on the door. They were called “rolling churches.” The system was set up so passengers utilizing the private car pool made a contribution to the MIA for their fares, and in return the MIA would reimburse the drivers for gas and car pool expenses.

Challenges to Overcome


Volunteer drivers for the new “private taxi” consisted of ministers, educators, laborers, and businessmen who picked up former bus riders and took them to work. Thomas Brooks in his book, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: A History of the Civil Rights Movement, noted, “The automobile owning folks who never rode the buses, and the maids, and day-laborers, who depended upon the buses, came to know each other.”4 The lives of the middle- and working-class black community were blending and after a century of living in fear and oppression, Montgomery, Alabama’s black community was uniting to resist racial injustice for the first time in its history. Dispatch stations were set up where workers would congregate in the morning. From 5 am to 10 am, cars left these stations every ten minutes. These stations included every black church, the black funeral parlor, black filling stations, stores, and key business places. From 10 am throughout the rest of the day, hourly shuttles were run. There were fortytwo pick-up stations that functioned actively until eight o’clock at night.5 Very few black drivers ever passed a pedestrian without stopping to give them a ride. White segregationists were trying to stymie the movement with various strategies. On Saturday night, January 21, 1956, an editor at the Minneapolis Tribune saw a story with the Montgomery dateline coming across the wires declaring the forty-nine-day-old bus boycott over. The wire story said city commissioners and three black pastors had reached an agreement. The editor had a reporter, Carl Rowan, call King for the details. According to King, no one in the MIA had been authorized to reach an agreement. King was confident the “agreement” was a trap. Knowing a story of this magnitude would splinter the boycott, the reporter at King’s request called Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers to get the names of the pastors who purportedly settled the dispute. Sellers refused to name the ministers but said they represented Holiness Church. When Rowan shared this information with King, he knew it was a scam. There was no Holiness church. When King identified the three pastors, they confirmed they had been called to the mayor’s office on an unrelated subject but had not signed anything. That night boycott leaders worked to reverse the impact that this Sunday front-page headline would have. Pastors were called and asked to set aside sermon time to contradict the coming story. With the hoax exposed, the boycott continued as if the paper had never come off the press. Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers had another viewpoint of this incident, which he reported during an interview: “You don’t even know who you can deal with. Let me tell you about this. This will show you how they do. The mayor called a meeting a few weeks ago with three Nigra preachers who represented fourteen churches. They agreed to go back to the buses and we thought it was settled. Then when King came back to town and found out about it, they were threatened with physical violence. One issued a statement that he had been fooled and didn’t know he was


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

making an agreement. The other two didn’t withdraw, but they were threatened too, and all of them asked for police protection to keep their own people from harming them. When they get like that, you don’t know who you can believe, or who you can deal with. This King has set himself up above everybody else like a God. He wouldn’t let the agreement go through. He thinks he’s way above everybody else. He won’t see anybody except by appointment and he has press conferences and appears on TV shows. He thinks he’s the president or something. Well, the commission is through with that and the only way to settle it now is for them to come back to the buses.”6 As white leadership relentlessly worked to pressure the blacks to stop the boycott, many blacks longed to return to the peace of the past, even if it meant no dignity or hope. Keeping the morale alive among the community was an incessant struggle for the MIA leadership. In January, at an MIA board meeting, several ministers expressed their frustration that the city and bus line officials remained so rigid over the boycott’s mild demands. They wanted to call off the boycott, but King said they would be ostracized. He believed that the majority of Negroes were willing to walk. Once King expressed his authority the committee chose to persevere. One month into the boycott, 325 cars were being scheduled each day by the transportation committee for 85 organized pick-up and drop-off points around the city. The private, all-volunteer car pool was ensuring that each person had transportation when they needed it, picking up passengers “from 43 dispatch stations and 43 pick-up stations.” 7 Although some drivers defrauded the MIA for gasoline, tires, and car repairs, on the whole this creative transportation system reinforced the success of the boycott. Once the MIA transportation system was under way, it was better than the city transportation system. Additionally, pick-up locations were closer to black homes. Another attempt at negotiations was tried. The MIA wanted no more than a first come, first-served arrangement with black riders taking seats from the back to front with whites seating themselves in the opposite order, yet Jack Crenshaw, the attorney for the bus line, was adamant against any settlement. Most blacks and whites in the area felt that the demands were moderate, but Crenshaw’s obstinacies strengthened black determination. Thus the boycott continued through the spring and hot summer months. Another setback for the boycott came in October when the White Citizens Council had the Montgomery Insurance Company cancel the insurance on all the MIA’s private station wagons. The insurance company notified the MIA that the insurance risks were too high for car pool drivers and they would have to look elsewhere for coverage. After many rejections from other insurance companies around the country, Lloyds of London agreed to continue the insurance, so the car pools could stay operational.

Challenges to Overcome


To make matters worse, there were rumors of factions between the NAACP, run by E.D. Nixon, and the MIA, of which King was president. The rumor was that Nixon had been the unelected head of Montgomery’s black community for years and expressed resentment at King and Abernathy, who now received more credit than the local activists who had put in years of work struggling against racism. In Montgomery the NAACP was already struggling because blacks had realized that the MIA and the bus boycott were bringing them national attention. The MIA’s tactics and strategies were proving to bring faster results than the traditional legal methods of the NAACP. With the boycott, blacks realized that their destiny was no longer tied to the legal approach of the NAACP and the white dominated judicial branch of government. The MIA gave them the opportunity to control their own destiny. This switch in focus for blacks put a strain between the two organizations. Insiders reported that Nixon “criticized King for turning the MIA into a one man show and felt that King and others had used Parks for their own purposes and then turned their backs on her, refusing to hire her for one of the MIA’s paid positions.”8 Nixon resigned as treasurer of the MIA, citing job changes that reduced the time he was available to work for the movement. He sent a bitter letter to King expressing his frustration at the MIA leadership who ignored his opinion. As time went on trouble brewed inside the MIA organization. King accused the president of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins, of making money for the NAACP in the name of the boycott. Wilkins defended himself saying all proceeds gathered in the name of the Montgomery movement would be used to supplement the MIA legal expenses. Other NAACP officials who had spent twenty-one years trying to integrate public schools were not as supportive of the radically passive resistant techniques that the MIA was using to deal with bus segregation in Montgomery. However, when the mass indictment trial made King a national figure, Wilkins increased his public support of King and the movement and invited King to speak at the NAACP’s national convention. Wilkins added that the NAACP would pay for all the attorney fees for the mass indictment charges. King knew the MIA depended on the NAACP’s history and recognition, because if the MIA cases ended up in U.S. Supreme Court, NAACP lawyers had the civil rights track record to help them be victorious. When King made his way to the NAACP National Convention in San Francisco to speak, Uriah Fields, the secretary of the MIA, held a press conference announcing his resignation and claiming that the MIA leadership was riddled with corruption. He publicly called the MIA leaders egotistical, and said he was resigning because he could no longer be identified with them. Fields timed his public resignation while King was out of town with the goal of restructuring the MIA board; however, he underestimated the bond between King and Montgomery boycotters. By the time


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

King returned to defend his MIA leadership, the masses had turned on Field, and King’s only job became one of asking the masses to forgive Fields for making the charges. As the boycott continued violence escalated as whites sought other methods to stop the boycott. MIA leaders received death threats and phone calls. Car pool drivers were stopped and ticketed for all sorts of traffic violations: windshield wipers, headlight checks, and exaggerated turns. White employers driving blacks to work were arrested for speeding. Car pool drivers were stopped and questioned; boycotters were harassed while walking to work. Grover C. Hall Jr., editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, said that before the boycott race relations in Montgomery were what white southerners described as good. “Montgomery was one of the finest cities in the South where race relations were concerned. The people were—and are—easy going and not given to sharp divisions and tensions. Everybody got along with everybody else and there were no major complaints on either side. The structure of society was more or less set. Opposition seemed futile. Personal difficulties might be adjusted through some prominent Negro who would speak with an influential white person. This was the established pattern of paternalism; and it did not disturb the status quo.”9 NOTES 1. Interview with Anna Holden, February 10, 1956, Preston Valien Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans. #860210-005, 1. 2. Ibid., 2. 3. Branch, Parting the Waters, The King Years, 145. 4. Brooks, The Walls Came Tumbling Down, 114. 5. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 91. 6. Interview with Anna Holden, 6. 7. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 91. 8. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 129. 9. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, 109.

7 ALL OUT ATTACK VIOLENCE Local white citizens, angered over the tenacity of the boycott, began to fear the strengthening black community and began to make efforts to end the boycott with violence. King’s house was bombed, and two nights later E.D. Nixon’s yard was also bombed. Fred Gray had rocks thrown through his windows by police officers. Jo Ann Robinson woke up one morning to find holes in her car from an acid bath. Rosa Parks lost her job two weeks after the boycott began and received life-threatening phone calls blaming her for the cause of all the trouble. Although the black community was outraged, under the tutelage of their leaders, the violence did not spawn retaliation. The boycotters remained calm as King called for peace at all costs, in spite of the violence being directed against them. King preached that the Gandhian method of nonviolence was the most powerful weapon in their struggle for freedom. He reminded black citizens at each weekly meeting of the importance of operating with a spirit of love, noting it was more effective than militant rebellion. The violence that continued to erupt as the boycott persisted was a constant reminder of the tyrannical conditions blacks had experienced on a daily basis on the bus system in Montgomery and had been so desperate to change. The violence and bombings committed against the blacks were broadcast nightly on the evening news, and this dissemination continued to raise national consciousness of the Montgomery conflict. It was widely known that the situation was so tense that men took shifts to watch Abernathy and King’s homes while they slept.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

City commissioners and white businessmen issued a proposal to Ralph Abernathy in another attempt to end the boycott. On February 20, 1956 they offered no retribution for leaders or those who participated in the boycott if they would end the protest immediately. Rumors were rampant in the community that criminal indictments for eightynine boycott leaders had been prepared and were ready to be served. The indictments charged MIA leaders with conspiring to destroy Montgomery’s public transportation system and the bus company. Abernathy argued that the city had offered nothing more than continued segregation and increased bus fares. With warmer weather on the way, Abernathy rejected the settlement, saying MIA leadership was prepared to go to jail. With the possibility of the MIA leadership being arrested, concerns arose as to how the boycott would continue to flourish without sufficient management. Although the MIA leaders knew that they wanted to reject the city’s offer, they took the final decision to the black community, who overwhelmingly agreed with Abernathy. Out of the four thousand people in attendance at the mass meeting, only two voted not to continue the boycott.1 The city’s proposal was unanimously rejected—the boycott would continue. MASS INDICTMENTS The next day, on February 21, 1956, the Montgomery grand jury indicted eighty-nine boycott leaders including King, Abernathy, and twenty-three other ministers and boycotters under conspiracy to conduct an illegal boycott.2 King was out of town, so Abernathy called him in Nashville to tell him that the grand jury had returned the largest indictment in the history of the county with more than eighty-nine arrests scheduled to begin. Surprising public officials, E. D. Nixon did not wait on the deputies to make an arrest. He walked into the courthouse and turned himself in to authorities. As news of the arrests spread throughout Montgomery, hundreds gathered outside the police station to applaud the accused leaders and offer words of encouragement as one by one the leaders of the MIA followed Nixon’s lead and turned themselves in. White leaders were stunned, and the black community was thrilled that their leaders were surrendering without having to be hunted down like criminals. As the leaders passed one by one into the police station they were fingerprinted and photographed with a number hung around their neck. In a separate room a deputy sheriff took down necessary information on each defendant. Others patiently waited their turn in line. Joe Azbell reported in the Montgomery Advertiser that it was as efficient as an army recruit line. Three or four people stood at the booking desk to sign bonds for those who were arrested. Once they were released they waited around for others to arrive. They shook hands and slapped each other on the back,

All Out Attack

The mass indictment of over 115 people by a Montgomery grand jury resulted in the largest number of arrests in the history of the county. (Courtesy of the Montgomery County Archives)



The Montgomery Bus Boycott

On February 21, 1956, a Montgomery grand jury indicted 89 boycott leaders, including King and Abernathy, for conspiracy to conduct an illegal boycott. (Courtesy of the Montgomery County Archives)

All Out Attack


An overflow crowd met outside the courthouse when over 115 boycott leaders were arrested and charged. (© Associated Press)

smiling, joking, and sharing stories like a homecoming. “Man you’re late. I’ve been here an hour,” and “Well, here comes my preacher!” were comments that were recorded by Joe Azbell, who was covering the arrests for the Advertiser. The police reports showed that most of those arrested were Alabama-born blacks, the majority of whom were between only thirtyfive to fifty-years-old. Among those arrested were several women, including Rosa Parks and Jo Ann Robinson. By the time King returned from a trip to Nashville, he was the twentyfourth minister to turn himself in. Grover Hall, editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, called the mass indictment ridiculous, saying it only served to rejuvenate morale for the boycott and weakened the use of jail as a means of social control over the black community. From the moment the indictments were issued, the Montgomery bus boycott was a national story. “The New York Times put Associated Press accounts of the indictments on the front page for two days and immediately sent a reporter to Montgomery who kept the story on the front page. The Washington Post for the first time flew a reporter into Montgomery and began playing the boycott on the front page. Newsweek, already


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Ralph Abernathy was among 115 Montgomery blacks arrested in an effort to stop the boycott. Here, he is greeted by well-wishers supporting his efforts on their behalf. (© Associated Press)

several beats behind Time magazine, threw together an extensive story, and then joined the Times in staking out the story for the next several weeks.”3 The national coverage was giving an emotional jolt to the spirit of the protesters. According to Donnie Williams and Wayne Greenhaw, coauthors of Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow, “The protesters became instant news consumers, turning on their televisions and radios, sharing copies of the New York Times, and seeing themselves, for the first time, in the heroic image that the world was beginning to witness.”4 The grand jury report stated there had been growing racial tension in Montgomery and the boycott was just a manifestation of this tension. While it predicted violence if things continued on the same track, it wrote, “In this state we are committed to segregation by custom and law; we intend to maintain it. The settlement of differences over school attendance, public transportation and other facilities must be made within those laws which reflect our way of life. During the past hundred years, no racial group has progressed so rapidly as the Negro, and no minority

All Out Attack


group has received so much in material aid and encouragement as the Negro.” ON TRIAL When the trials began on March 19, less than a month after the arrests, blacks filled the courtroom wearing theatrical clothes with crosses bearing the message “Father, forgive them.” This added drama to the courtroom and made the blacks of Montgomery appear victimized. The nonviolent visual messages that were being sent around the nation once again increased boycott support around the country. More and more people became impressed with the dignity of the boycotters and the reasonableness of their demands. Furthermore their behavior contrasted sharply with the violence of the city officials and southern racists. The State of Alabama v. M. L. King Jr. was the first case to be tried. William Thetford, the prosecutor, wanted to provide a picture of King as the leader of a conspiracy. The outcome was critical to the future of

King’s guilty verdict became a new rallying point for local bus boycotters. With his wife by his side, he is congratulated by Rev. Ralph Abernathy on being found guilty of leading the boycott. (© Associated Press)


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Alabama society. He called J. H. Bagley, general manager of Montgomery City Lines, hoping to show how the boycott had first started. Erna Dungee, the financial secretary of the MIA was also called to testify. MIA financial records were disclosed showing evidence that $30,713.80 had been dispersed for transportation services during the boycott. Seventeen drivers had been paid $24 a week and eight service stations had received funds from $300 to $1,318.5 The prosecutors were trying to prove that the MIA was operating for the leaders’ personal financial gains, and King was their leader. Her testimony clarified that the MIA had a money trail for its operation. Rufus Lewis, MIA transportation head, confirmed that about two hundred blacks utilized their transportation daily and that the drivers were paid $4 each day to drive from 6 am to 6 pm.6 Thetford was proving that although the boycott was nonviolent in nature, it was resulting in organized violence against the city buses. When it was time for the defense to make its case, Fred Gray made a detailed, seven-part motion to dismiss the State’s evidence on the grounds that it did not prove criminal conspiracy and failed to show that King had committed a criminal act. Judge Carter overruled the motion. Local and NAACP lawyers were there to lead King’s defense, although they predicted he would be found guilty of leading and contributing to the boycott. There were seventy-seven witnesses sequestered outside the courtroom.7 Some of those who were to testify included Mayor W.A. Gayle; Commissioner Frank Parks and Clyde Sellers, the police chief; J. H. Bagley, the bus company manager; and seven bus drivers, who testified to incidents of violence during the first days of the boycott. Likewise, MIA staff, Reverend Robert S. Graetz, and many others were called to testify to incidences of cruelty and injustice on city buses. Thelma Glass, a member of the WPC testified that on numerous occasions the WPC had met with city leaders and the bus company, seeking remedies for the problems plaguing the bus lines. Likewise, Sadie Brooks, a member of the City Federation, a women’s group which originated with the NAACW (The Negro Association for the Advancement of Colored Women), noted she had visited the city leaders several times to discuss the same problems, but nothing had been done. Rufus Lewis was recalled as a member of the Citizens Coordinating Committee, claiming he, too, had approached city leaders to complain about the same problems with no results. Other black witnesses were placed on the stand to tell of the situations they dealt with daily as passengers on the bus. Claudette Colvin was put on the stand and testified of her own arrest and her willingness to boycott without being coerced because she said the entire black community was treated “wrong, dirty and nasty,” on city buses. One witness testified that her husband had been shot dead by a policeman for asking for a refund of his dime bus fare. Another witness, Martha Walker, told the court that the bus driver closed the

All Out Attack


door on her blind husband as he was leaving the bus. The door caught his leg and the blind man was dragged through the street before his leg came free. In spite of the testimonies, King was immediately convicted and fined $1,000, which meant that other indicted leaders would be found guilty as well once their trials were held. Although the defending lawyers had anticipated the verdict, they offered an attainable hope for justice through a federal appeal. Other cases were continued pending the appeal of King’s case. When the district trial was over, a five-hundred-page transcript with fiftyone exhibits was prepared and submitted for the federal appeal.8 Furthermore, while King had become a public figure in Montgomery, the conviction enhanced his popularity and put him in demand to speak around the world. For additional comment on the conviction, journalists in Washington, D.C. approached President Eisenhower for his opinion of the situation. He shared his sympathy, but stated that the situation was larger in emotions and physics than anyone realized and remained uncommitted to help. THE AFTERMATH King became a prized spokesman and began traveling around the country giving speeches to publicize the cause and raise money for the boycott. At his first Northern fund-raiser, ten thousand people gathered to hear him, and the collection plates gathered more than $4,000 for the MIA.9 Days following the trial, the White Citizens Council organizer, Sam Engelhardt, introduced a new bill to strengthen segregations on buses to the Alabama State Legislature. Alabama legislator Charles McKay also drafted new legislation making it unlawful for white and black players or spectators to play or sit together at any card games, field games, beaches, or swimming pools. This made it illegal to have integrated public gatherings. Theaters and restaurants that catered to both races would have to provide separate entrances and seating sections. Those found guilty were subject to fines from $100 to $500.10 King’s conviction encouraged New York Congressman Adam Powell to plan a prayer meeting for national deliverance. Lawmakers in Boston, Massachusetts, voted to send an “expression of sympathy” to the colored citizens of Alabama who were seeking a nonviolent means of equality for all Americans. King was featured on the cover of Jet magazine as Alabama’s Moses, and the New York Times profiled King as “Man in the News.” NOTES 1. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 147. 2. Ibid., 150.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

3. Roberts, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, 140–141. 4. Williams and Greenhaw, Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow, 175. 5. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 160. 6. Williams and Greenhaw, Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow, 184. 7. Ibid., 200. 8. Ibid., 200. 9. Branch, Parting the Waters: The King Years, 185. 10. Ibid., 202.

8 WHITE OPINION From the very beginning, it appeared that the Montgomery city leaders were completely surprised at the unity and organization of the protest and never appeared to take the boycott seriously. “White citizens in Montgomery did not seem to realize the historic event that was taking place. It was amazing how little the relationships between whites and blacks changed during the boycott. Most people remained calm and civil because it was understood that it was a quarrel with the city officials and the bus company. Many of the officials were harsh and vindictive,” 1 noted Uriah Field, treasurer of the MIA. MIA leaders felt that public statements from white leaders were polite and peaceable; however, according to Ralph Abernathy, in private, “Most were saying that they were prepared, if necessary, to use violence, just as their fathers and grandfathers had done to keep us in our place.”2 In the column “Around Alabama,” in the Mobile Register, Ted Pearson, a political journalist, reported that to preserve the sanctity of Southern tradition, State Senator Sam Engelhardt had organized the White Citizens Council (WCC). The WCC was dedicated to preserving racial segregation. As executive director of the WCC, Engelhardt announced that, “The niggers are getting out of control. They think they can do anything they want. They think they are just as good as me and you. Well, we know damn well they aren’t! We know they are lily-livered lowlife descendants of blue-gum slaves from the African coast. Well, I’m here to tell you we ought to send ‘em back where they came from. They think just because one little ol’ pinheaded nigger said ‘no’ to a bus driver they can do anything they


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

want to do. They think just because one nigger leader named Martin Luther King stands in front of ‘em and waves his black hand they can march down the street without being run over. Well, I’m here to tell you we got to drive straight and steady. We got to make sure they don’t take over the streets, or the school houses, or the city busses.”3

The White Citizens Council circulated flyers inviting whites to join in preserving segregation in Alabama before it was too late. By January 1956, a number of influential political figures in Montgomery, including Mayor W. A. Gayle and the city commissioners, had openly identified themselves with the WCC movement. Once commissioners, the police chief, and mayor joined the WCC, a rush of prominent Montgomery businessmen followed their lead and joined as well. Tensions over the boycott mounted. Where most people in Montgomery had chosen to stay neutral to the WCC, once the boycott began, the organization surged in membership. It became one of the fastest growing councils in the South with more publicly respectable citizens than any other council of its type. Engelhardt credited the success of the WCC membership drive to the bus boycott in Montgomery. Membership exploded from eight hundred in the entire state of Alabama before the boycott to fourteen thousand in Montgomery alone after the boycott began. The WCC grew to eighty chapters around the state with more than seventy-five thousand members. Membership required that candidates would stand for segregation, and against the mixing of race in public schools and allowing blacks the right to vote. The White Citizens Council continually tried to divide the black community. They circulated stories that MIA leaders were only sustaining the boycott for the financial donations they were secretly pocketing for their own private gain. The mayor went on television openly opposing the boycott, stating that his commissioners were going to “stop pussyfooting around with the boycott” because most whites in Montgomery did not care if blacks rode the bus or not. He confirmed that the city council was pledged to preserve racial segregation by all legal means. Mayor Gayle continued that when and if the Negro people desired to end the boycott, his door was open to them, but until they were ready to end it, there would be no more discussions. He noted that they had tried to be friends to the black race, but they were not going to let them destroy the public transportation system in Montgomery. Contrary to his statement, bus drivers were being laid off, half the city transportation routes were cancelled, and fares were raised on the remaining routes. Without the black riders, Montgomery’s bus company was losing an average of $3,500 each day. This in turn translated into lost tax revenue for the city. Montgomery’s economy was collapsing because it depended on the black citizens that it had been abusing. With Police Commissioner Sellers declared as a member, the MIA considered the police department an arm of the WCC. Because the White

White Opinion


Citizens Council had openly adopted a policy of economic reprisal against the blacks who fought segregation through the boycott, blacks felt their protection from the police force was nonexistent. The WCC was considered the racist counterpart of the MIA. King, Robinson, and two other pastors made an appointment to talk with Alabama’s Governor James Folsom about the issues facing them in Montgomery and to seek his help. After a cordial interchange of information, Folsom suggested the boycott be abandoned and blacks return to the bus system. Folsom felt that other issues would subside, if the boycott stopped. He openly shared that the police would continue to pester blacks as long as the boycott was in operation. When the governor summarized that the boycott had proven its point, MIA leaders once again felt they had no recourse in the Alabama political system. When the leaders shared the governor’s suggestion to the masses, they once again unanimously voted not to return to the buses without total integration. On February 10, 1956, twelve thousand members of the WCC attended a mass rally, waving Confederate flags and playing “Dixie,” the national anthem of the short-lived Southern Confederacy. Hate literature circulated among those attending: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bow and arrows, sling shots and knives. We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all whites are created equal with certain rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead niggers. In every stage of the bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black, slimy juicy, unbearably stinking niggers. Their conduct should not be dwelt upon because behind them they have an ancestral background of Pygmies, head hunters and snot suckers. My friends it is time we wised up to these black devils. I tell you they are a group of two legged agitators who persist in walking up and down our streets protruding their black lips. If we don’t stop helping these African flesh eaters, we will soon wake up and find Reverend King in the White House. LET’S GET ON THE BALL WHITE CITIZENS.”4

With the rise in membership of hard-line anti-integrationists, and the national media attention expanding its interest in the Montgomery boycott, Grover Hall, editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, faced much political pressure to stick with his own race and advance the white segregationists’ position. Hall felt that the segregationist whites had started the fight and had gotten what they asked for by originally denying the blacks’ reasonable petition of three demands. Although he said the Negroes were foolish to think they could disarm white political or economic dominance, it could have been handled better by the opposing side. “Poor leadership let the concrete get set. The white community is afraid to lose face lest it open the dike . . . Never in nine years as editor


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

have I seen Montgomery so inflamed as now. Trying to be moderate I have taken quite a mauling.”5 Hall was not alone; many whites felt the demands were reasonable, but the pink elephant in the room was severe apprehension that desegregation over the buses would lead to general racial integration that was contrary to Southern culture. THE OTHER SIDE Many white women in Montgomery supported the boycott and encouraged their black domestic help to stay the course. They agreed that it was justifiable to request decent treatment on the buses. The ties between the black and white women of Montgomery were extremely personal. White women considered black women essential to the running of their households. It was the black women who took care of their children, fixed their meals, and cleaned their homes. Most of the women in general, regardless of race, felt the boycott demands were reasonable. Some white employers secretly backed the boycott, giving money to the MIA, driving their employees to work, or giving them money for private taxis. A few women Almost every day for more than 25 years, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column she called “My Day.” The column was started in 1936 to give readers a view of what a First Lady does during her day at the White House. Roosevelt wrote her column Sunday through Friday so every newspaper reader in the United States knew what she was doing or thinking. Known as a human rights advocate, Eleanor Roosevelt seemed particularly interested in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the plight of the Southern black citizens. In her column for December 5, 1956, she wrote, “I think December 5th is an important date for all of us in the U.S. to remember. The bus protest carried on by the colored people of Montgomery, Alabama, without violence, has been one of the most remarkable achievements of people fighting for their own rights but doing so without bloodshed and with the most remarkable restraint and discipline, that we have ever witnessed in this country.” Eleanor Roosevelt

even wrote letters trying to influence the politics behind the boycott. Montgomery’s Mayor Gayle criticized these women, calling them an embarrassment to the South. He argued that they joined the blacks in trying to destroy the social fabric of Southern society and suggested that rather than help the blacks, employers should just fire them. One letter of attack at the mayor, which was published in the Montgomery Advertiser said, “If the mayor wants to do my wash and wants to cook for me and

White Opinion


clean up after my children let him come and do it. But as long as he won’t do it, I’m not getting rid of the wonderful woman I’ve had for 15 years.”6 One black maid, Dealy Cooksy, told her employer, “Y’all white folks done kept us bline long enough. We got our eyes open and now us sho ain’t gonna let you close ‘em back. Y’all white folks wuk us to death and don’t pay nothing—. I walked to wuk the fust day and I kin walk now. If you don’t wanna to bring me I ain’t begging and I sho ain’t getting back on da bus ‘til Rev. King sey so, and he seys we ain’t going back ‘til they treat us right.” Later she said, “We got these white folks where we want ‘em and dere ain’t nothing dey can do but try to scare us. But we ain’t rabbit no more, we done turned coon. My daddy used to tell me ‘bout coon huntin. If he’s in a tree and you shake him down, he’ll kill three dogs, and if he’s in the water, he’ll drown evvy dog dats come in de water. It’s jest as many of us as the white folks and dey better watch out what they do.”7 Juliette Morgan, a city librarian and member of a respected Montgomery family, wrote a long letter to the Montgomery Advertiser praising the boycott. “One feels that history is being made in Montgomery these days. It is hard to imagine a soul so dead, a heart so hard, a vision so blinded and provincial as not to be moved with admirations at the quiet dignity, discipline and dedication with which the Negroes have conducted their boycott.” Immediately following the publication of her letter she began to be harassed with public threats. Her phone rang all the time and rocks were thrown through her windows. A leading white civic worker, I. B. Rutledge, wrote a letter to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser on December 9, 1955, focusing on the humanitarian issues behind the boycott. She stated she hadn’t found one white person in all of her civic and religious duties that thought it was right for a black person to stand on a city bus so that a white person could sit. In her letter, Rutledge further challenged citizens of Montgomery to take moral courage to face issues that were adverse to pubic opinion. Reverend Robert Graetz, a white pastor to Trinity Lutheran Church, an all black church, supported the boycott and helped on the MIA transportation committee. He helped members of his congregation get to their jobs and drove his own car during the day to aid in transportation. When this was made public he began getting threatening phone calls, prowlers, and broken windows. On September 4, he sent a letter to the attorney general, Herbert Brownell in Washington, D.C. Graetz introduced himself and gave a history of the situation in Montgomery. Greatz cited that “reports from my white friends indicate that tension is extremely high. Some white lawyers have commented on the drastic increase in police brutality where Negroes are concerned . . . The Central Alabama Citizens Council has stated in its official publication that they will use violence if necessary to maintain segregations. “The Negros know what Sellers is capable of. They know that all branches of the local government are stacked against them. So many of


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

them, perhaps most of them are staying well-armed, ready to fight off the mob that could come any day. And as long as our local officials go on uncurbed, our local situation is potentially explosive. “On the basis of all those things, and others for the protection of our citizens and the preservations of law and order, we urge the Justice Department to make a thorough investigation of conditions in Montgomery, Alabama.”8 On the other hand, there were many letters to the Advertiser’s “Tell Old Grandma Column” that shared an opposing view. King, among others, was blamed for bringing a “Northern” view into an amicable South and starting all the trouble. Boycotters were encouraged to quit sinning and obey Montgomery laws. Many other comments said blacks should recognize their indebtedness to whites for providing them with opportunity, jobs, and education. The Alabama Journal published a harsh editorial directed against the boycott on December 18, 1955, which declared that Montgomery, the “Capital of the Confederacy,” had been made a “guinea pig for the great sociological experiment” financed and supported by meddling radicals from other states who were “jealous of the South’s . . . serene way of life.”9 The writer encouraged patience, however, in the face of the current unrest, because the experiment was destined to fail. While the white debate continued, blacks continued walking at great personal sacrifice. In spite of all odds against them, they put one foot in front of the other with dignity and discipline and continued to pace through the Montgomery streets with determination. NOTES 1. Fields, The Montgomery Story: The Unhappy Effects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 50. 2. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography, 155. 3. Williams, My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, 126. 4. Brooks, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: A History of the Civil Rights Movement, 116. 5. Martin, The Deep South Says Never, 25. 6. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 120. 7. Ibid., 118. 8. Graetz, letter to attorney general published in Stuart Burns, Daybreak of Freedom, University of North Carolina Press, 1997 from Robert Graetz papers in private hands. 9. Editorial, The Alabama Journal, December 15, 1955.

9 DIGNITY, DISCIPLINE, DEDICATION From the beginning of the protest, city bus officials reported that the boycott was 99 percent effective.1 As the boycott continued, this created concerns for the bus company’s possibility of bankruptcy. Originally, the white citizens of Montgomery believed that the boycott would end quickly, but their refusal to negotiate and the MIA’s developing desire for full integration exaggerated the protest in which fifty thousand Montgomery Negroes were participating.2 The president of the local bus drivers’ union said it was “the best organized group anywhere . . . They have mass meetings every week, and all of ‘em go, by the thousands.”3 Publicly, local politicians downplayed the boycott’s success, but in downtown Montgomery, businesses were struggling financially and the bus company’s financial losses mounted daily. Businessmen of downtown Montgomery requested to meet with MIA leaders to put an end to the boycott. But the meeting failed because they had no negotiating power and were only after economic improvement for themselves. Without the blacks frequenting their downtown businesses, the entire Montgomery economy was struggling. CHURCH AND THE BOYCOTT In spite of economic losses to the bus company and downtown business in Montgomery, it was the black women who had been most affected by bus segregation and the boycott, more than any other segment of black society. Although they were the ones who were more personally inconvenienced by


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

the boycott, they were also the most undisturbed by the hurdles along the way. The obstacles appeared only to fuse them more tightly together and make them more effective in their fight. Their long daily walks became a source of pride. This personal burden took on a victorious meaning in the context of the abuses they had suffered, so the black citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, kept on walking by the thousands. They were confident that their walk would bring them justice. What originally began as a plea for courtesy and dignity had become a social protest to fight segregation.4 Because of the nonviolence and organization of the protest, the Montgomery movement seemed to be birthing a nationwide revolution to assert human rights. A unique aspect of the success of the boycott was that the blacks in Montgomery became one congregation. Church and the boycott went hand in hand. The biweekly meetings reinforced the religious character of the protest. Monday and Thursday night mass meetings brought renewal, information, encouragement, and kept funds coming in to continue the boycott. It was during these meetings that the boycott theme of nonviolence was reinforced. King would use the weekly mass meetings to explain theories of civil disobedience in terms that the community could understand. The entire leadership team understood that this was not just a technique, but a mind-set that had to be embedded as a habit. Drills were designed to make the philosophies and techniques of nonviolence instinctive. With the natural reaction to protect themselves, the “dress rehearsals” were critical to the overall success of integration. In addition to teaching the theology of suffering, blacks were taught survival techniques and prepared for arrest, physical assault, and even death if the white power structure chose to intimidate the boycotters physically. The protesters were taught Bible verses to use if they were abused. “Though we knew that our people could follow the path of nonviolence while in control of themselves, we also knew that in moments of sudden anger almost anybody could be tempted to strike back,”5Abernathy said. As the boycott extended into the year, special seminars on nonviolence were held on Saturdays to teach the boycotters how to walk bent over guarding their stomachs and covering their ears for protection. Although there was little they could do when dogs were unleashed on them, or hoses sprayed at them, they were told to go limp if anyone laid hands on them during an arrest. King served as the teacher, while Abernathy took the role of the encourager. At each meeting he would challenge the boycotters to remain true to the cause and stay off the buses. King would teach first and Abernathy would close the meeting so the crowd would leave singing, shouting, and encouraged to hold fast for the prize ahead. The mass meetings were largely attended by the black women who served as the communication network for the black community. These women became the heroes of the movement. Speakers at the weekly meetings would build up their morale and single them out. One older woman

Dignity, Discipline, Dedication


known as Mother Pollard turned down rides that were offered to her and chose to walk. She said, “It used to be my soul was weary and my feet were rested; now my feets is tired, but my soul is rested.” 6 Her comment became the mantra of the boycott movement. TAKING THE FIGHT OUT OF ALABAMA As the boycott gridlocked, Clifford Durr, who was acting as a behindthe-scenes mentor to Fred Gray, told Gray that if the blacks were serious about legally challenging the segregation on city buses, they should file a suit directly with the federal court. According to Durr, the state of Alabama would tie up an appeal for Rosa Parks’ conviction for years while a new case filed in the federal court challenging the constitutionality of Montgomery’s segregated bus seating could quickly be appealed to the Supreme Court from the federal bench. A federal court case against city officials also offered the most hope for a successful permanent solution to end the bus boycott. Another big advantage of a federal case would be the environment. A federal case would be fought in an atmosphere that was less restricted by Southern thinking, and it would be filed separately from the boycott demands that were being made. Jo Ann Robinson began to help Gray search for new plaintiffs for the case. As she interviewed prospects, she found no man willing to expose himself to the public scrutiny that would be part of this new legal battle. Like the rest of the boycott movement, it was women who led the way forward. Four black women volunteered for the fight and stepped into the legal ring, filing Browder v. Gayle. The plaintiffs were Aurelia Browder and Susie McDonald, Montgomery housewives; Claudette Colvin; and Mary Louise Smith. All of these women had suffered abuse and humiliation on Montgomery buses. The case charged Montgomery’s mayor, city commissioners, and the police commissioner with disputing the constitutionality of segregation on Alabama’s public transportation system. NOTES 1. Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, 160. 2. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, 116. 3. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 124. 4. Ibid., 117. 5. Donleigh Abernathy, Partners to History, 152. 6. Branch, Parting the Waters, 149.

10 A NEW ERA Before the Browder v. Gayle federal case began, Congressman Powell asked Mayor Gayle and the city commission to relax the seating rules on the buses. This would require that Montgomery city ordinances be changed. Gayle, Sellers, and Parks said under no circumstances would they change segregation laws. They sent city attorneys into state court to declare the city’s laws on segregation as constitutional. The judge ruled from the bench saying there was nothing in the constitution eliminating states from making rules for separation in transportation. In May 1956, Frank M. Johnson was a young district judge given the responsibility to hear the federal district court case between the women and Mayor Gayle to have segregation on the buses declared unconstitutional. Johnson wrote to the chief judge, Joseph Hutchison, asking for a three-judge panel to be assigned to hear the case; however, Hutchison was unwilling to assemble the panel for what he considered a matter of local law. It took Johnson three requests to influence Hutchison. He persuaded him by asserting that Alabama laws on segregation were at the center of the Montgomery bus situation and the U.S. Constitution was being questioned. In the end, Hutchison appointed circuit judge Richard Rives and district judge Seybourn Lynne to hear the case with Johnson. Richard Rives was a sixty-one-year-old native of Montgomery. His family had lost its Montgomery plantation after the Civil War. He had graduated first in his class and received a scholarship to Tulane University;


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

however, he only stayed one year before studying law and sitting for the bar. Rives was a member of the Alabama National Guard and served in France during World War I before President Harry Truman appointed him to the federal bench. Seybourn Lynne’s family were Alabama natives dating back three hundred years to pre-Revolutionary America. At forty-three years of age, Lynne had served in the U.S. Army and following World War II, Lynne was also appointed to the federal bench by President Harry Truman. Frank M. Johnson Jr. was the youngest member of the panel assembled to hear the boycott case. Educated at the University of Alabama, Johnson served the Army in Europe and then in England as an attorney before coming back to Alabama as an assistant district attorney. President Eisenhower appointed Johnson to the federal bench in November 1955 just before the Montgomery bus boycott began. Clifford Durr helped Fred Gray and the other NAACP attorneys prepare for the case by examining Brown v. Board of Education. It was his intention of showing that the Supreme Court ruling for public education also applied to public transportation. Montgomery’s city attorneys defended their position asserting that the Alabama Public Service Commission had authority over public transportation. They argued further that the Brown v. Board of Education case had no application to Browder v. Gayle. Judge Rives, flanked by Johnson and Lynne, read the complaint to open the hearing. NAACP attorneys Charles Langford, Charles Carter, and Fred Gray would lead the attack in asking the lower court to overturn the decision the Supreme Court had made with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which had established the “separate but equal” law and been foundational for Jim Crow’s survival. Knowing that a lower court had never overruled a high court decision, Fred Gray began the argument by calling Aurelia Browder to the witness stand. As she approached the judge’s bench, hope of overturning the almost seventy-year-old Supreme Court case that had established the separate but equal law came with her. Browder was a thirty-two-year-old nurses’ aide, the mother of four children and a part-time student at Alabama State College. Browder testified that on April 29, 1955, she had been asked to stand in the aisle so a white man and woman could have her bus seat. She admitted to boycotting the buses since December 5, in an attempt to change segregated seating laws and in unity with her fellow black bus riders. On cross-examination, Browder stated her boycott was personal and voluntary, not a result of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s request that blacks not ride the buses. The next plaintiff, Susie McDonald, also testified that she had stopped riding the buses because she was tired of being mistreated. Nineteenyear-old Mary Louise Smith became the third plaintiff to testify. She

A New Era


announced that she had been arrested when she refused to give up her seat to a white woman. When Walter Knabe, the city attorney, asked Smith if Reverend King represented her, she replied that he was appointed as their leader, but that the people represented themselves. Charles Langford called Mayor Gayle as a hostile witness to ask what instructions he had given the Montgomery Police to enforce segregation. Gayle confirmed that he believed in the law of segregation, and it was his job as mayor to ensure that the laws were enforced. He confirmed that police were instructed to arrest anyone who violated segregation laws. Under cross-examination, City Attorney Knabe asked Gayle if violence had been a problem in Montgomery once the boycott began. Gayle commented that the “danger of bloodshed” existed and he knew from experience that there would be violence if integration on the buses was permitted. He added that as mayor it was his responsibility to look after Montgomery citizens with foresight, not to wait until a problem occurred. When City Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers was called to the stand, he predicted that violence would be the “order of the day” if segregation laws were removed. Judge Rives asked if he could “command one man to surrender his constitutional rights to prevent another man from committing a crime?” When the judges retired to their chambers at the end of the day, Rives followed tradition and asked Johnson, the youngest judge, for his decision. “As far as I’m concerned, state imposed segregation on public facilities violates the constitution. I’m going to rule with the plaintiffs.” Judge Rives agreed, but Judge Lynne had a contrary opinion. Lynne was concerned that they were bound by the law that already existed in Plessy v. Ferguson. Judge Johnson didn’t understand why the court would approve segregation through Plessy, yet mandate the desegregation of public schools through the Brown case. Although Judge Johnson understood this ruling was addressed at educating children, Johnson and Rives surmised that it set a precedent that the courts should follow. Lynne disagreed. As he saw it, the Brown decision was confined to public schools and not to be applied to other areas of society. Judge Johnson did not factor in the segregation issue, but took his position on the case from the constitution, which legally addressed that the freedom of individuals could not be omitted. In his opinion the boycott case was an example of human rights being denied. With Judges Johnson and Rives ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, they were in effect overturning the Plessy case of 1896, requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to issue the final ruling. Browder v. Gayle would be the catalyst to end the boycott. Three judges who would hear the case ranged from extremely conservative to completely liberal. They listened to city lawyers argue that if segregation


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

ended, bloodshed and violence would flourish throughout Montgomery. In response, one judge, Richard Rives questioned whether one man should have to “surrender his constitutional rights, in order to prevent one man from committing a crime?” When the judges went to their chambers to vote, it was determined that although the Supreme Court had not addressed the transportation issue directly, in the Brown case it had shown that Plessy was no longer valid. Three weeks later, on June 4, in a two-to-one decision, it was resolved that the segregation laws were in fact unconstitutional. Unhappy with the decision that would change a century-old way of life, Montgomery’s city attorney immediately appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court was in summer recess when the appeal was filed, it would decide in October whether or not the case would be heard. It would be months before a final decision was handed down, but this small victory ignited the boycott with renewed enthusiasm to continue. RENEWED ENTHUSIASM Women like Jo Ann Robinson and her WPC peers kept the boycott organized, helped to make policy decisions, handled communication, and drove car pools six hours each day while men like Nixon, Abernathy, and King supplied the public leadership. As autumn approached, the people were growing weary. The thought of walking through slush and cold made victory seem further away. Retaliation against the boycotters increased. With the looming possibility of the Supreme Court upholding the federal court’s decision against segregation, violence against black people escalated. Blacks were pulled out of car pools and beaten, and black filling stations were bombed. Hatred was spreading around Montgomery like a disease. During the summer, special state legislature sessions were called to attack the NAACP in an effort to destroy the organization that public officials thought to be the secret supplier of funds to the MIA organization. The Alabama Legislature nominated a committee to make a full inquiry into the boycott activities to determine whether the NAACP or any other organization in the state was directly or indirectly controlled by Communists. On June 1, the attorney general declared that the NAACP was subversive and it would be forced to abstain from operating. The order issued required the NAACP to release its membership and financial donor lists, financial reports, charters, and property deeds. Moreover, the attorney general was asking for all correspondence, telegrams, and records involving the Montgomery federal court case to be turned over. The NAACP refused to yield to this pressure, because exposure of its members would place them in direct subjection to violence and other repression. The judge fined them $100,000 for

A New Era


contempt of court. On appeal, the case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a legal battle that would last eight years, and ultimately the NAACP was granted the legal right to protect its membership with anonymity.

BANNING THE CAR POOLS At the end of October, the eleventh month of the boycott, in an effort to keep the upper hand, Montgomery city officials intervened again. They petitioned a state court for an injunction to ban the MIA car pool as unlicensed public transportation. While the final Supreme Court decision was pending on the constitutionality of segregated seating, the city was still trying to stop the boycott to make a point. The city’s new lawsuit claimed that the car pools cost the city money and were a public nuisance. Gray filed papers in the U.S. District court asking for a federal injunction to block any obstruction with the car pool, charging that the city was interfering with the civil and constitutional rights of the black citizens. They

Taken in April 1956, five months into the boycott, supporters continue to rally behind King’s leadership. (© Associated Press)


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

argued that the car pool was legal and operated on a voluntary basis because the drivers did not charge their passengers. After watching his supporters endure nearly twelve months of walking, at much personal suffering and inconvenience, King was going to have to address the mass meeting, warning the people that the car pools could be forbidden. Continuing the boycott during the homestretch was in question if the car pool was destroyed. When King went to the masses that had assembled he said, “This may well be the darkest hour just before dawn. We have moved all these months with the daring faith that God was with us in our struggle. The many experiences of days gone by have vindicated that faith in a most unexpected manner. We must go out with the same faith and the same conviction. We must believe that a way will be made out of no way.”1 King commented that in spite of the words of encouragement he tried to deliver, all he could feel was pessimism passing through the audience as they went home into the dark night with their light fading. The next day on Tuesday, November 13, King sat in the courtroom, as leader of the MIA. The city was asking for a $15,000 fine from the MIA car pool operation in compensation for the lost tax revenue it should have acquired in bus fares over the last year. At noon, in the middle of the trial, Mayor Gayle, the police commissioner, and two city attorneys made an abrupt exit from the courtroom. Several reporters also began moving in and out of the courtroom. When the judge called a recess, Rex Thomas, a reporter for the Associated Press, handed King a note he had ripped off the Associated Press wire ticker that said, “The United States Supreme Court today affirmed a decision of special three-judge panel in declaring Alabama’s state and local laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional.” In a majority vote, the United States Supreme Court had just handed victory over to the black citizens in Montgomery, and in America. “At this moment my heart began to throb with an inexpressible joy. The darkest hour of our struggle had indeed proved to be the first hour of victory.”2 King told the attorneys at the table the news and then rushed to the back of the room to tell his wife and Ralph Abernathy. The joyful word spread quickly throughout the entire courtroom. Judge Carter ruled against the MIA that day and in favor of the city. His ruling prohibited the MIA car pools in spite of the Supreme Court’s decision that made this current case irrelevant. King later wrote that he felt sympathy for Judge Carter, saying that the conviction was a no-win situation for him. By convicting King, Carter had to face the condemnation of the nation, but to acquit him, he had to face the condemnation of the local community and those voters who kept him in office. Throughout the proceedings King commented that Carter had treated him with great courtesy, and he had rendered a verdict that he probably thought was the best way out.

A New Era


After a year of boycotting, KKK Klansmen publicly walk through downtown Montgomery in an attempt to intimidate boycotters. (© Associated Press)

THE END IS NEAR With triumph in sight, the black people of Montgomery began celebrating that evening. After thirteen long months, women, children, and grown black men wept at the victory over years of suffering, brutality, arrests, and fines. Never again would they have to give up their seats for a white person, or be insulted as their fares were paid. They could ride the


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a meeting of the executive board of the Montgomery Improvement Association. (© Associated Press)

buses and be treated as human beings. As eight thousand people gathered for the mass meeting, which had to be held in two churches, King’s voice bellowed from speakers used to connect the groups. He addressed the high-spirited crowd, declaring a victory for justice and democracy. King reminded the boycotters that it was, “More honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation.” The MIA asked blacks to stay off the buses until the official Supreme Court order arrived from Washington. Notice was not sent out until at least twenty-five days after a decision was announced because a certified copy would be sent to the three judges who had made the original decision. Participants of the meeting were reminded that when they returned to the buses, it was important to return with quiet pride. This meant extra effort for the boycotters because the car pools had been declared illegal by Judge Carter earlier that afternoon. To make it through the delay until the paperwork reached Montgomery, the “Share a Ride” plan was designed for each neighborhood and street. Car owners continued to share rides with friends and neighbors, thousands of boycotters continued to walk, and the buses remained empty.

A New Era


Sam Engelhardt, executive director of the White Citizens Council, made a public statement that the Supreme Court should be prepared to enforce the order if it was going to destroy the South’s social order. Mayor Gayle announced that city government did not accept integration as inevitable and it would do anything necessary to continue segregation laws. Police Commissioner Sellers asked citizens to be calm. To demonstrate its disapproval of the Supreme Court’s decision, about five thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)—which, along with the WCC, had experienced a surge in membership during the boycott— assembled on the capitol steps draped in their white robes to hear the Grand Dragon, Bobby Shelton, scream racist remarks. “The Yankee Communists are controlling the niggers of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida with their underhanded promises and their almighty dollar,”3 Shelton shouted. Later that night in a field outside the city limits, off Old Selma Road, the KKK continued their demonstration by lighting forty-foot-high crosses on fire. Many rode throughout the black community issuing threats of bombings and violence. Newspapers reported about forty carloads of robed and hooded Klan members trying to intimidate the residents. Instead of finding the usually fearful black community with its doors closed tight and lights extinguished, Klan members were greeted with porch lights turned on, doors wide open, and black groups gathered for conversation on the front lawns. Many concealed their fears and walked about with a quiet defiance. Some watched the procession from the front steps of their home and some were bold enough to wave at the passing cars, but the Klan kept its distance and then disappeared into the night without incident. NOTES 1. Brooks, The Walls Came Tumbling Down: A History of the Civil Rights Movement, 455. 2. Ibid., 456. 3. Williams and Greenhaw, The Thunder of Angels, 247.

11 BOOT CAMP Black boycotters walked with a new vigor in their step, knowing the end was near. As they waited for the Supreme Court ruling to reach Montgomery for implementation, what they had hoped would be three or four days turned out to be five more weeks. In the meantime, the MIA taught the black community about its responsibility in securing the rights they had won. Information was distributed on how to act with desegregation in place. Leaflets instructed them on courtesy and reminded them that continuing to operate in a nonviolent manner was still a moral imperative to the success of integration. PREPARING FOR INTEGRATION In December, an entire week of seminars and church services was planned. Celebrities from all over the country asked the MIA to be a part of the victory celebration in Montgomery. To maintain nonviolence, the MIA executive committee created the “Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change” to be held as a celebration on the anniversary of the beginning of the boycott. The motto of the workshop would be “Freedom and Dignity with Love” and close with a worship service. During the weeklong activities there were seminars reviewing lessons the black community had learned during the yearlong boycott. King reminded the community that they had learned to stick together for a common cause, and that it was imperative that threats and violence not intimidate them. He reinforced the new sense of dignity that they had


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

gained and reminded them of the discovered power of nonviolence as a weapon of change. He declared the power of the church in fighting for social as well as personal salvation and addressed the celebration with lessons of leadership, which reinforced the concepts of unity and nonviolence as the most successful weapon to institute change. Workshops were held in nonviolent protest to make certain that people were prepared for any indignity the white community might have in store including physical violence. Because response would be the natural tendency, dress rehearsals were held to teach people not to strike back if they were struck. King, Abernathy, and Glenn Smiley held drills to reinforce techniques of nonviolence. King made jail seem honorable and announced that he was not afraid to die if it was the price that was necessary to free blacks from a life of psychological death that the segregation laws mandated. It was King’s belief that passive resistance meant confronting physical force with “soul force.” Much time was spent reiterating biblical mandates of suffering as an example of faith. In another effort to prepare the community for integrated buses, training sessions became a part of the twice-weekly mass meetings where the theme of nonviolence continued to be stressed. Chairs were lined up at the front of the church altar to simulate the inside of a bus. People from the audience were picked to role-play the part of bus driver and black and white passengers to create potential peaceful and hostile situations. Scenes of confrontation, insult, and violence were suggested so the audience and actors could be presented with potential problems they would be faced with once integration took effect. Additionally they were coached not to push if they were pushed, and not to curse if they were cursed at, and not to demonstrate any form of violence that could be used against them. Role-plays were followed with general discussion in which blacks were reminded to exhibit goodwill, love, and courtesy at all times. Sessions on anger and abuse management were taught in the black churches across Montgomery, and MIA leaders also visited black schools and urged students to use integrated buses as good citizens. Black churches, clubs, and civic organizations were asked to reinforce nonviolent doctrine and prepare people for the integration. The MIA leaders worked around the clock planning strategy to provide an atmosphere of courage, faith, and hope to the boycotters. Glenn Smiley drafted a code of nonviolent conduct as the buses were desegregated. This code was distributed on mimeographed sheets at mass meetings just before the boycott ended. The following was published in the Chattanooga Times on December 15, 1956: 1. “If anyone argues with you at least we feel the channel of communication has been opened. If we can discuss it, that’s good. But we must remain calm, talk in the spirit of love, and maybe we can win them.”

Boot Camp


2. “If they strike or push us, the strong thing to do is to refrain from striking or pushing back. We must be calm and reason with them. We must say to them, ‘If you want to hit me again, do it, because I’m not going to hit you back. If you want to fight me you will say to everyone on this bus that you’re weak.’” 3. “If they threaten us with arrest, for disorderly conduct, we must go to jail peacefully because if they arrest one of us for violating no law, there are 50,000 other Negroes they’ll have to arrest, too.”1

VICTORY AT LAST While the Supreme Court decision tarried, the White Citizens Council made threats that blood would run in the streets if the desegregation order was enforced. Members of the Montgomery Board of Commissioners issued a public statement on December 17, 1956, to address the Supreme Court decision denying segregation on the buses. According to the statement, the decision negated the city ordinances that Montgomery officials attributed to the “peace and social order” of the city. Their public comment said, “If separation of the races was legal in 1896 and during the years thereafter, it is hard for the average citizen to understand how the meaning given to it at that time can be changed 60 years later by nine men sitting on the United States Supreme Court to mean something directly opposite. This decision in the bus case has had a tremendous impact on the customs of our people here in Montgomery . . . The City of Montgomery, having at heart the welfare of both the white and black races and carrying out the wishes of 90 percent of our people, has done all in its power to uphold the City Ordinance providing for the separation of races on the buses. It has faithfully fought the effort to nullify this ordinance through all the courts of the land and with every legal weapon available . . . The City Commission, and we know our people, are with us in this determination, and will not yield one inch, but will do all in its power to oppose the integration of the Negro race with the white race in Montgomery, and will forever stand like a rock against social equality, intermarriage, and mixing of the races in schools. In these matters, for the common good of all the people of Montgomery, and for the public peace and quiet of this City, there must continue the separation of the races under God’s creation and plan. In so doing, we know that the best interest of both races will be served.”2

Contrary to this statement, on December 20, the final decision arrived at the federal courthouse. A U.S. marshal formally served Montgomery officials with the Supreme Court order ending Jim Crow on the buses and striking down Alabama segregation laws as unconstitutional. Mayor Gayle announced that he would enforce the ruling and maintain order. That night, at the last mass meeting of the boycott, King officially declared


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

the boycott over and urged everyone to return to the desegregated buses the following day. His word to the masses that night was that their twelve-month difficulty was now vindicated. With the mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court officially in Montgomery, it was crystal clear that segregation on public transportation was both legally and sociologically invalid. He reminded the community to move from protest to reconciliation and to continue to refrain from violence. The next morning on December 21, 1956, at 5:45, MIA leaders gathered in the King living room to board the first desegregated city bus in Montgomery. King, Abernathy, Gray, Nixon, and Glenn Smiley boarded a city bus and took a seat near the front in the formerly “white only” section. King and several other ministers rode a variety of buses that day to eliminate trouble, but there was little incident. Never before in U.S. history had there been such a massive, prolonged defiance against racial discrimination. The buses had been empty of black patrons for 381 days. There were only a few incidents of abuse the first day. It was reported that a white man slapped a black woman who refused to move from her seat in the front of the bus. Several others commented they had been called names and pushed when they tried to sit in the front, but overall it was a calm first day of integration. THE AFTERMATH The violence that had been anticipated erupted just two days after integration occurred. King’s home was fired on by a shotgun. That same week on Christmas Eve, a car pulled up to a bus stop where four men got out and beat a fifteen-year-old girl. Snipers took shots at the newly integrated buses with one incident sending a pregnant black woman to the hospital with bullet wounds in both of her legs. These acts of violence forced city commissioners to suspend bus service after 5 pm to maintain safety. In late January a group of white businessmen organized to begin the Rebel Club. The club would be a private white organization that would purchase buses and only allow its members to ride. Montgomery city attorneys approached U.S. District Court Judge Johnson, who had voted on the Browder case, to determine its viability. He determined that this group would have to comply with the federal injunction banning racial segregation, so the group never acted on its proposal. Other major incidences included the bombing of four black churches in January, as well as the homes of three MIA leaders. Abernathy reported that, “The bombing campaign in Montgomery following the return of blacks to Montgomery buses was the warning sign of turbulent years to come. It was the birth of truth, justice and equality for blacks in America.”3 The difference this time was that white Montgomery spoke up against the terror, and on January 31 seven white men were arrested in connection with the bombings. Five were indicted. Eventually sniper

Boot Camp


attacks and bomb threats ceased and normal bus service was restored as Montgomery adjusted to integrated buses as a way of life. Some people pulled up family roots and left Montgomery after the boycott. Although victory had come, the wounds ran deep emotionally and many felt a new community would help them heal. Dr. King moved to Atlanta to devote more time to national civil rights work. At Alabama State College, many faculty members also left. According to Jo Ann Robinson, “We all had endured so much together, but we were just plain tired.”4 However, the struggle and success of the Montgomery story became an inspiration and pivotal point across the South, which attracted many high school and college students to demonstrate for their civil rights and the elimination of the racial barrier of segregation in their communities. NOTES 1. Smiley, Chattanooga Times, December 15, 1956. Associated Press. YGS Group ([email protected]). 2. Stewart Burns Collection, Stanford University. 3. Donleigh Abernathy, Partners to History, 18. 4. Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, 173.

12 THE LEGACY The Montgomery Bus Boycott is the story of forty-five thousand people who walked the streets until segregation was destroyed. It was a movement that was instrumental in revealing to the nation how racism worked. The courageous boycotters of Montgomery changed the conscience of the American nation. One story that is recorded on the boycott’s results is told by Gwen Patton, who sat in the back of the bus with her grandmother following integration. Patton reminded her grandmother that she had struggled for over a year during the boycott, walking in harsh conditions in order to sit where she wanted to on the bus. According to Patton her grandmother’s answer was that the boycott was about “having the option” to sit anywhere she wanted and now that she had the freedom to do that, she chose to sit in the back. Patton said, “The crux of the movement was about the option to be free.”1 Before the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, blacks had no mass movement organizations to facilitate change. The organization and nonviolent theme of the protest had made Montgomery and the MIA visible around the world. Black leaders from around the country visited Montgomery to understand what drove its success. They would attend MIA leadership and mass meetings. These leaders gained knowledge about the necessity of connecting the organization and church. They learned how the church could be used as an instrument of social change, and how music and preaching worked together to unify and empower the community. A study of the MIA financial structure gave these leaders much to learn.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

REASONS FOR SUCCESS The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first citywide passive resistance campaign against the Jim Crow laws of segregation. It was also the first successfully organized movement of African Americans in twentieth-century America. Montgomery’s geography, organized black leadership, and the unity, persistence, and stamina of the black community were all significant factors in the boycott’s success. The faithfulness and nonviolent response from the black community was a slap in the face to racist attitudes so prevalent in the South. Because of the city’s small size, the operation of private car pools was successful. It also allowed bus patrons the liberty to walk. Because every black person in Montgomery seemed to have individual grievances with the bus line, the choice to support the boycott became a personal expression of freedom and defiance. Contrary to its original motives, the uncompromising “get tough” attitude of Montgomery officials, their continued arrests of boycott organizers, and their constant antagonistic and legal challenges that were designed to end the boycott, actually helped to increase momentum for the movement. Social unrest in Montgomery had reached a critical level before the Rosa Parks arrest and her apprehension just became the boiling point. Local pastors and black leadership organized into the MIA, and the community became unified in the battle against the Southern tradition of Jim Crow. “Leaders were no longer afraid, no longer fearful of their pictures in the papers because we knew we were not standing alone. We now felt that we had the whole community behind us,”2 Ralph Abernathy said, adding, “People believe that the Civil Rights Movement came about by sheer accident, from events in the 1950s. Certainly chance played a role in the timing of the movement, but the shape it took was partly the result of our conversations during the weeks before we suddenly found ourselves at the center of the Rosa Parks controversy.”3

THE BEGINNING OF CIVIL RIGHTS King and much of the MIA leadership were criticized for their failure to encourage the continued activism of the thousands of women whose work and sacrifice had made the boycott a success. However, both King and Abernathy joined in the creation and success of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC was birthed out of the success in Montgomery as an organization to coordinate protest movements around the South. The SCLC became more than a coordinating body. It emerged, structured mostly of ministers, to link the churchbased movements sprouting around the South following the Montgomery example. Black leaders from around the country organized to be a resource to other communities struggling with segregation issues,

The Legacy


Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy (left), Rev. Robert S. Graetz (center), pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were instrumental leaders in the success of the boycott. (© Associated Press)

because King and the leadership of the MIA persuaded thousands of angry, frustrated black citizens in Montgomery to renounce violence and stick to a nonviolent system while working for change. The boycott achievements in Montgomery had created momentum for civil rights campaigns across America by shattering Southern traditions, increasing national conscience of human rights issues, and paving the way for other civil rights issues that had now come forward. The nonviolent methods that produced victory in Montgomery set the stage for other forms of black resistance to spring up: student sit-ins, freedom rides, marches on Washington, and voter registration drives that attracted international attention as a bold and revolutionary means to produce political change. The Montgomery bus boycott was a landmark event in the civil rights struggle because it mobilized an entire community with incredible effectiveness and introduced nonviolent protest on a grand scale as a successful weapon against human rights abuses. It united black Americans in a sociopolitical way that was unprecedented and promoted a new era of activism in the black community. Abernathy commented that the success of the boycott was due in part to King’s leadership. “King was brilliant in


The Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Civil Rights Memorial, located in Montgomery, Alabama, is the only monument honoring those killed in the Civil Rights Movement. (Courtesy of Tom England, Southern Poverty Law Center)

fostering the black community’s sense of purpose, in making the blacks of Montgomery feel they were on a historical mission, that they truly were God’s chosen people. Exhorting, persuading, encouraging . . . unparalleled in his eloquence,”4 he said. As these successes in Montgomery sparked future demonstrations, most would last only a few weeks, or months, unlike the faithful patrons of the Montgomery boycott. The movement stimulated the deep yearning on the part of ordinary people for a more just America. The struggle in Montgomery became a definition of the national consciousness in a predominately white, middle-class country. Although the Civil War legally abolished slavery, it was the Montgomery boycott that helped to enforce what the Emancipation Proclamation had set out to do one hundred years earlier. The darkest chapter in American history would now be over. The boycott also brought King forward as an effective leader and thrust him onto an international stage as a leader and encourager for desegregation and civil rights across the South for years to come. As the spokesperson, King was joined by many other leaders whose contributions were credited in the boycott’s success: E. D. Nixon’s pioneering spirit and years of trying to prepare the black community to fight Jim Crow laws through the NAACP; Ralph Abernathy’s background, leadership, and vision; Jo Anne Robinson and

The Legacy


the WPC’s behind-the-scenes energy, tenacity, and manpower; and Fred Gray’s foresight and courage to fight the legal battles. Nevertheless, the real heroes of the boycott story were the black citizens of Montgomery who demanded transformation with strength and dignity as they kept on walking to pioneer a new era of social change not only in Montgomery, but America and around the world. It is the Montgomery story that became a test of the nature of democracy in America and pushed the Civil Rights Movement forward. The success of what began in hearts and on the streets of Montgomery is still evidenced in 2008 as the first black American, Barack Obama, was elected President of the United States. While many leaders from the civil rights era watched, the President-elect gave his victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. He said, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonder if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”5 From Jim Crow to the White House in fifty years, and the beginning was in Montgomery. NOTES 1. Willie Leventhal, The Children Coming On . . ., 176. 2. Ralph Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, 28. 3. Donleigh Abernathy, Partners to History, 18. 4. Ibid., 18. 5. Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States in his victory speech, November 4, 2008, Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois.

Appendix A BIOGRAPHIES RALPH ABERNATHY (1926–1990) Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were inseparable during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Abernathy and King were close associates during the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s. Their relationship began in Montgomery where King and Abernathy orchestrated the leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which kept the boycott organized and in operation. As a team, King was the motivator, while Abernathy administered the details of the boycott. Abernathy grew up the son of a farmer. After fighting in World War II, he earned his B.S. degree in mathematics from Alabama State University and then one year later, he received his M.A. in sociology from Atlanta University. He became the pastor of First Baptist Church Montgomery in 1948. As pastor of a downtown church, he and King became instant friends once King moved to Montgomery to pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist. Abernathy worked closely with King to manage and motivate the black community during the 381-day boycott of the city’s buses. After the boycott, Abernathy and King continued to work together and founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was created to organize nonviolent protest. King served as president and Abernathy served as secretary-treasurer. In 1961 Abernathy became pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta and was named SCLC vice president, thereby becoming



King’s protégé. When King was assassinated in 1968, Abernathy took over as president of the SCLC until he resigned in 1977 to run for a congressional seat in Georgia. When his bid for office failed, he served as a pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. Abernathy died on April 17, 1990. CLAUDETTE COLVIN (1939– ) There are many historians who give credit to Claudette Colvin for instigating the modern Civil Rights Movement. Colvin receives this acknowledgment because she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus nine months before the Montgomery Bus Boycott began to protest Rosa Parks’ arrest for the same insurrection. Additionally Colvin was a secondary plaintiff in the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit, which declared segregation unconstitutional. As a high school junior, Claudette Colvin was heading home from Booker T. Washington High School on a public bus March 2, 1955. At the age of fifteen, she wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up—a perfect choice according to her mother who is reported to have said that she could out-talk forty lawyers.1 As a freshman in high school, she learned about the injustices of discrimination and wrote an essay denouncing the humiliation that black teenagers had to endure. She joined the NAACP youth council to do what she could to fight the injustices she saw taking place around her in Montgomery. In high school, Colvin had been studying the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and took these lessons seriously. On her way home that March day, she was sitting about two seats from the emergency exit when four whites boarded the bus. The bus driver, Robert W. Cleere, ordered her and three other black passengers to get up. Based on what she had studied in school, she understood it to be her constitutional right not to give up her seat. She refused and was removed kicking and screaming from the bus by two police officers, who took her to jail. Because of her age, the forced arrest in handcuffs outraged black parents in the Montgomery community. A friend testified on her behalf in juvenile court, but nonetheless, Colvin was convicted of assault. Because her case was heard in juvenile court and the segregation charge was dropped, the possibility of using her arrest as a test case to fight bus segregation was dropped to wait for a more promising case. Almost one year after her arrest in February 1956, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the WPC, Fred Gray, and the MIA searched for women who had suffered abuses on the local bus system to build a legal case to fight segregation. Colvin chose to be one of the plaintiffs of this NAACP lawsuit, which eventually went to the Supreme Court and became the vehicle that defeated Jim Crow laws to end segregation in America. Following the victory, Colvin moved to New York and worked the night shift at a Catholic nursing home.



NOTES 1. Olson, Freedom’s Daughters, 88. CLIFFORD DURR (1899–1975) Clifford Durr was an Alabama civil rights lawyer who worked as a behind-the-scenes mentor and legal council to the leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Durr, born in Alabama, was a graduate of Starke University School for Boys and attended the University of Alabama where he was class president. He studied law at Queens College and at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before he began his career in Milwaukee. He was offered a position with a large corporate law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, but quit when he saw a senior partner of the firm fire a secretary without reason. His brother-in-law, Hugo Black, helped him get a job with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in Washington, D.C. to help fight the economic problems with the nation’s banking system. In D.C., Durr worked closely with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on several social issues. Roosevelt then chose Durr to become a member of the Federal Communications Commission. It was here that Durr became known for his opposition by voting against network conglomerates that were snatching up small radio stations. He championed keeping special channels for noncommercial use and became known as the Father of Public Television. It was commented in the New Republic magazine, December 1944, that Durr was “fighting quietly and steadily for the people’s interest.” This spurred investigations of the FCC by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The FBI stepped up its interest in Durr in 1949, when he joined the National Lawyers Guild and then became its president. Durr left the FCC and opened a private practice in Washington, D.C. He was one of the few lawyers willing to represent federal employees who had lost their jobs as a result of the loyalty oath program; he took many of their cases without charging them a fee. Durr eventually returned to Montgomery and practiced law for black citizens whose rights had been violated. He also began counseling young attorneys including Fred Gray, who he mentored throughout the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Durr continued to represent activists in the Civil Rights Movement, supported by financial support from friends and outside the South. In 1964 he closed his firm and began lecturing around the United States and abroad. He died at his grandfather’s farm in 1975. ROBERT GRAETZ (1928– ) When Robert Graetz was sent by the Lutheran church to pastor an all black congregation, he had no idea that he was getting ready to be involved in the “second American Revolution.” A white West Virginian,



Graetz discovered in college that blacks had been excluded from U.S. institutions of higher learning. He started a race relations club at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and joined the NAACP. When he graduated he served as a student pastor of a black church in California. Graetz, his wife Jeannie, and their two children were quickly accepted into Montgomery’s black community as pastor of Trinity Lutheran. As friends to Raymond and Rosa Parks, Graetz openly supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott and encouraged his congregation to make the boycott as effective as possible. He attended the MIA leadership and mass meetings each week and personally transported about forty-nine walkers each day during the boycott. For his support of the boycott, he received much harassment in the white community and his home was bombed twice. After the boycott in 1958, Graetz was reassigned by the Lutheran church to Ohio. He authored many books including his boycott memoirs and others, which include chapters on white privilege, black forgiveness, and the present-day challenges for human and civil rights, including for gays and lesbians. In retirement, he remains active with numerous progressive organizations and in civil rights causes. FRED GRAY (1930– ) Fred Gray began his legal career at the age of twenty-four when he represented Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus. As a result of this representation, Gray became a civil rights attorney and an instrumental force behind the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Montgomery on December 14, 1930, Gray’s father died when he was two years old, which forced his mother to work as a cook for whites. His life with his four brothers and sisters revolved around church activities at Holt Street Church of Christ. At fourteen Fred was sent to The Nashville Christian Institution in Tennessee, which was a Church of Christ high school. He had to leave the state to finish his education because blacks could not then attend Alabama law schools. He returned to Montgomery in 1954 and became one of two black lawyers in the city. According to Gray, he returned with a determination to destroy everything segregated. He didn’t have to wait long because when Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for violating the segregated seating ordinances on Montgomery’s city buses, Gray became her lawyer. Tutored on Montgomery’s legal system behind the scenes by Clifford Durr, Gray’s legal victory in the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit ended the boycott 381 days later. Over the four decades since the boycott, Gray won many civil rights cases in education, voting rights, transportation,



health, and other areas. He represented the Freedom Riders, the Selmato-Montgomery marchers, and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. E. D. NIXON (1899–1987) Edgar Daniel Nixon spent his life moving the Civil Rights Movement forward. As a black civil rights activist, and president of the Montgomery and state of Alabama chapters of the NAACP, Nixon had much influence in the Montgomery community. One of seven children, Nixon’s mother was a maid and a cook who died suddenly when he was a boy. His father left the children to take care of themselves while he worked as a Baptist preacher. Nixon worked in the fields as a sharecropper but was determined that he didn’t want to sharecrop his entire life. He worked his way to Mobile where he had heard jobs were easier to come by. In Mobile, he landed a job as a train porter where for $60 per month, he would make beds and fluff the pillows of the passengers, carry their bags, and serve their meals. He would read newspapers passengers left on the trains to discover what was happening around the world. In 1928 when he was staying at the YMCA between train runs, Nixon became exposed to the ideas of A. Philip Randolph, a well-known black socialist who began the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. After hearing Randolph, Nixon joined the group on the spot and decided that he was going to fight for civil rights. Randolph taught Nixon how to organize people and point them in the right direction. He decided to organize African American workers for the Pullman Company into a union fighting for worker rights, and he was a visible spokesperson against Jim Crow laws and an advocate for black civil rights. Nixon learned from Randolph that he did not have to enjoy a limited role in society while whites enjoyed full American citizenship. As president of the Montgomery division of the train porters union, Nixon was instrumental in producing fair and equal treatment and pay for its members. Because this union was the first successful black union in Alabama, Nixon was revered among the black community and invited to champion many local causes. Nixon moved forward to establish a local branch of the NAACP in Montgomery. When he did this, he enlisted the help of his minister at Holt Street Baptist Church to help him share information with the congregation about the NAACP and its importance. As a few interested citizens began to trickle into his meetings, he became known as, “Mr. Civil Rights.” Nixon’s wife became unhappy that he was always away from home working on his causes and she left him. In 1934 he met Arlet, who was very supportive of the causes Nixon championed. She became his second wife and Nixon always said he was proud of the fact that she never had to leave the home to work as a maid like other women.



In 1944 when the local laws required voters to read, uneducated blacks became bound to a system they could not politically change. As president of the Voters League of Montgomery Alabama in 1944, Nixon worked to get black citizens registered to vote. He organized a march of 750 blacks on the Montgomery County Courthouse, demanding the right to be allowed to vote. Nixon was convinced that education was the key to lift struggling blacks out of their segregated oppression. Respected by blacks and whites in Montgomery, Nixon was usually the first to get a call when segregation violations occurred and blacks were arrested. He would bail them out of jail, get them a lawyer, and accept responsibility for those who were released into his care. He was a friend to all who were in trouble and seemed to derive a sense of joy in helping those who called on him. Because of his political activities, he knew most of the judges, police, sheriffs, and people at city hall and it was these acquaintances that Nixon used to help him help others. In 1954, Mr. Nixon was the first black to campaign for political office in Montgomery County. He ran for the county executive committee of the Democratic Party, losing by a narrow margin. Nixon was instrumental in the founding of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was the leadership team behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott. After he retired as a railroad porter, Nixon became director of a local public housing project. He received an honorary doctorate from Alabama State University before he died in Montgomery in 1987. ROSA McCAULEY PARKS (1913–2007) On December 2, 1955, Rosa Parks became the symbol of the black protest of segregation laws when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus on her way home from work. The Montgomery community knew Parks as a tireless worker, a churchgoer, and an excellent seamstress; however, Rosa Parks’ racial pride and anger was unheard of until she was arrested for not giving up her bus seat that December day. Parks grew up in Montgomery and was educated at Miss White’s school, founded by white teachers from New England to teach domestic and academic skills to young black girls. At Miss White’s, Parks learned self-respect and dignity and set goals for herself. In high school, Parks attended a laboratory high school on the Alabama State college campus with one of her classmates, Mary Fair Burks, who later founded the Women’s Political Council in Montgomery. Parks had to drop out of school her junior year because her grandmother became ill. She took a job in a shirt factory and the family farm until the age of nineteen when she married Raymond Parks. Parks was a barber at the Maxwell Air Force Base and a longtime member of the NAACP. He attended secret night meetings of the group and discouraged Rosa from joining the NAACP because he felt it was too dangerous for a woman. In



spite of his request, she joined a group with women in it and began her own work in the Civil Rights Movement as a member of the group. Through her work with the NAACP, Parks was made aware of Montgomery’s secret injustices like mysterious killings, unpublicized rapes, beatings, and burnings. She had been physically abused by a bus driver who grabbed her and threw her off a bus. In the early 1940s Parks helped to organize the local Youth Council for the NAACP and became its advisor, where she encouraged teenagers to try to integrate the local public library. When she was arrested and tried for violating segregation laws, Parks lost her job as assistant to the alterations manager at Montgomery Fair department store. As the face of the boycott, Parks was unable to get another job in Montgomery. In August 1957, just one year after the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended, Parks and her family left the area where she had lived all her life and moved to Detroit where her brother lived. She took a job as a seamstress and in a clothing factory. In 1965 Representative John Conyers, Jr., hired her as a receptionist in his Detroit office. Parks died in 2007. JO ANN ROBINSON (1912–1992) Jo Ann Robinson got involved with the Women’s Political Council (WPC) because the most humiliating experience of her life happened in Montgomery, Alabama. The youngest of twelve children, Robinson had grown up in Georgia on a one-hundred-acre farm. She was the class valedictorian when she graduated from a segregated all black high school. She was also the first member of her family to complete college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching from Georgia State College and an M.A. in English and literature from Atlanta University. She began teaching at Mary Allen College in Texas where she became chairman of the department. One year later, after a divorce, she moved to Montgomery when she was offered a professorship at Alabama State University. She had only been in Montgomery four months when she was hired in the summer as a professor of English at Alabama State, a black college. It was 1949 and Robinson was on her way to visit relatives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she would spend her Christmas holiday. Usually she drove her own car, but was taking the bus to the airport to catch her flight to Cleveland. Robinson took a seat on the bus five rows from the front. The driver asked her to get on another bus in Montgomery if they would allow her sit five rows from the front. When his remark didn’t register with her, he rose from his seat and stood over her with his arm drawn back to strike her as he yelled at her to get up. She ran from the bus in tears. When she returned from Cleveland she shared this story with her peers at the Women’s Political Council. It was then that she learned stories like



hers were common in Montgomery among the women who rode the buses. She made it her personal resolve to do anything she could to change this segregated seating policy. One year later, Robinson was elected president of the WPC and under her leadership the issue of segregated seating on public buses became a focus for the group. When segregation in America’s schools was declared unconstitutional in 1954, Robinson used this to demand better conditions for black bus riders on Montgomery’s bus system. Robinson used the threat of a boycott as part of her negotiations with the mayor, but she had no idea how they would implement the threat. She was a member of the executive board of the MIA and editor of the monthly MIA newsletter. After the boycott Robinson went to Grambling College in Louisiana. Later she moved to Los Angeles where she taught English in public schools until she retired in 1976. She became the first African American president of the Alabama Bar Association and served as president of the National Bar Association in 1985.

Appendix B PRIMARY DOCUMENTS DOCUMENT 1 The following excerpt by Eleanor Roosevelt in her book, “My Day” discussed the Montgomery Bus Boycott and how it was changing America. “New York, May 14—A few days ago I met Mrs. Rosa Parks, who started the nonviolent protest in Montgomery, Alabama, against segregation on buses. She is a very quiet, gentle person and it is difficult to imagine how she ever could take such a positive and independent stand. I suppose we must realize that these things do not happen all of a sudden. They grow out of feelings that have been developing over many years. Human begins reach a point when they say: ‘This is as far as I can go.’ And from then on it may be passive resistance, but it will be resistance. That is what seems to have happened in Montgomery, and perhaps it will happen all over our country wherever we have citizens who do not enjoy complete equality. It may be that his attitude will save us from war and bloodshed and teach those of us who have to learn that there is a point beyond which human beings will not continue to bear injustice.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, Mahwah, NJ: Pharos Books, 1991, p. 99.


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DOCUMENT 2 The following excerpt is from an interview with a Montgomery City Lines bus driver. It shows one side of the boycott story.

Interview with Bus Drivers by Anna Holden While I was waiting for a bus to leave the garage, I talked with the drivers who were sitting around waiting for their buses. The first one I talked to looked about in his late thirties, told me he had been driving nineteen years—did not attempt to identify him as far as name was concerned. I started out by asking him whether business was picking up on the line. He said Saturday used to be one of their best days but that this one had been pretty bad. Went into lengthy discussion of how everybody had cars now and wanted to drive them in town no matter how long they had to look for a place to park and how many times they had to send their kids back to put money in the parking meters. He wouldn’t be bothered with all that worry about the meters but people didn’t seem to mind. They were car crazy and were going to drive their own cars no matter how much it cost them or how much trouble it was. HOLDEN: This boycott has hurt a lot, hasn’t it? DRIVER: Sure has and I don’t know what they’re going to do about the fares when the Nigras start riding again. They can’t pay that much, but I don’t think the company will want to come down. HOLDEN: I guess nobody ever thought it would last this long. DRIVER: No. When I heard about it, I said, “Well, it’ll only be a day or two and they’ll be riding again.” But you’ll have to hand it to ‘em. They’ve done a good job with it. HOLDEN: It’s been way over a month now and they still seem to be going strong. DRIVER: They’ll come back though and I’ll tell you what’ll do it, lady. There are two things about Nigras. First, they don’t trust each other— none of ‘em—and they’ll be fighting pretty soon. You see lots of the money for this has been coming in from the outside and lots of it has been misappropriated. Well, people get tired of giving and they’ll quit and then they’ll begin getting in trouble in these misappropriated funds. And the second thing about Nigras, they love their cars. The take good care of them and they’re proud of them. You notice how they keep their cars shined and polished? Well, they won’t keep this up when their cars begin to depreciate. They’re running their own cars like taxis now and not getting anything for it and when their cars begin to get worn, they’ll quit. When you have all kinds of people using your car

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like a taxi, they wear out the seat covers and get it dirty and they won’t stand for that. HOLDEN: Where is all this outside money coming from? DRIVER: From all over—this NAACP is what started it. Now don’t get me wrong, lady. I’m for right and I think they have kicks, but they went about it wrong. They should have come to the bus company and told them what they didn’t like first. HOLDEN: They didn’t try to talk things over first? DRIVER: No, they just quit riding the buses. Now I think that’s ok, if they had to do it that way, but they should have threatened the company first. If they had come down and threatened the company with a boycott, put it on the line that they would quit if they didn’t get a better deal, the company would have come through, but they quit first and that’s not right. HOLDEN: This has been hard on the drivers. How many have been laid off? DRIVER: I don’t know, but lots. They’ve done pretty well with jobs. Some of the construction people have taken some on. Now they aren’t busy this time of year, they didn’t have enough work to keep their own people busy till around March 1, when building picks up, but they’ve taken them on to help out. Lots of people are helping out. Surprised me how many have gotten jobs with business so bad. HOLDEN: Is business bad now? DRIVER: Things are slow this time of year but people are helping out . . . (He mentioned a teacher who sometimes rides the bus but usually gets rides with friends who car pool. Cites this as instance of people who used to ride buses and are now paying more for cars and making the bus company suffer.) HOLDEN: That sounds almost like the car pools in the boycott. DRIVER: The Nigras will be back though. They’ll have to come back. I think they have their rights, but this isn’t doing them any good. You know, the old diehards that didn’t want them to have anything are dying off, and the younger people coming along are getting educated and we’re beginning to see they are human too and they have their rights, but then they go and do something like this and it sets everything back. When they get something they act so important—the young ones especially. I was in a store the other day and a young Nigra just pushed me aside, wouldn’t give me room. Now they shouldn’t be so important, it ruins everything. About this time, a driver who was going off duty asked me if I wanted a ride to town in his “old Wreck.” He spoke with a Southern accent,


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looked about thirty-seven or thirty-eight. (Note: saw him Feb. 10 at White Citizens Council rally). HOLDEN: You mean you would deprive the bus company of 15 cents? SECOND DRIVER: Oh, it won’t hurt them. Well on second thought, maybe it will. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. HOLDEN: Are they still losing money, even with the new fares? DRIVER: They’re not in as bad a shape as they were, but you see how many buses are laid up. At this point, walking from the lot to the bus, we passed two drivers coming in through the gates. He asked them how much money they brought in and I think one said $27 and another said he was “up a few dollars that day” but still “under.” They all shook their heads indicating things were bad. DRIVER: Now lady, I’ll tell you the whole thing in nutshell. They are just trying to cram this down the people’s throats and do it in a hurry, and they won’t swallow it. You look at all the progress they have made in the last twenty years by going slow. They could get somewhere but they won’t to do it fast. HOLDEN: I am thinking about the different places in the South where I have ridden the buses and what they do about seating. I know that in Atlanta where I lived several years they used this first-come, first-served plan like they are asking for here. DRIVER: It might work some places, but I don’t know about here. Now they say they do it down in Mobile and it worked there, but the reason they say it works is that they have a real tough judge on the bench and when there’s trouble he really throws the book at them. HOLDEN: You don’t think it could work here? DRIVER: I just don’t know. They are going to have to do something to get ‘em back on the buses. Those buses are my bread and butter, lady, and I want this thing settled. I have been driving fifteen years and I don’t want to start looking for another job. Taken from the Preston Valien Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans.

DOCUMENT 3 Willie M. Lee records his conversation with a domestic employee on her way home from work during the boycott. The full interview is found in the Preston Valien Collection, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans.

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LEE: How are you, Ma’m? DOMESTIC: I’m fine. Jest a bit tied, thank you. LEE: How far have you walked? DOMESTIC: I walked from town t’day. My lady brange me home most time, but I had to stop in town t’day. LEE: How nice of her. What does she say about the people not riding the buses? DOMESTIC: She never seyed anthang but one, and dat wuz right after we stopped ridin’ ‘em. One day she seys to me, “Dealy, shy don’t you ride the bus? Dat Rev. King is jest making a fool outta you people.” I seyed back to her, “don’t you sey nothing’ ‘bout Rev. King. Dat’s us man and I declare he’s a fine un’. He went to school and made somethin’ out of hisself, and now he’s tryin’ to help us. Y’all white folks done kept us bline long enough. We got our eyes open and now us sho ain’t gonna let you close ‘em back. I don’t mean to be sassy, but when you talk bout Rev. King I gits mad. Y’all white folks wuk us to death and don’t pay nothing— LEE: But Dealy, I pay you. DOMESTIC: What do you pay, jest tell me? I’m shame to tell folks what I wuk fur. LEE: Dealy, I didn’t mean to make you mad, I was just talking. DOMESTIC: Well, talk about Sellers and ole no good Gaye. I walked to wuk the fust day and I kin walk now. If you don’t wanna to bring me I ain’t begging and I sho ain’t getting back on da bus ‘til Rev. King sey so, and he seys we ain’t going back ‘til they treat us right. I don’t reckon you ride de bus, but us is tied of these white folks making us stand so white folks kin set down. So us to get back on de buses ‘til they treat us the same as dey treat white folks. I won’t be particular’ ‘about ridin then. I don’t care if they don’t ever start back. We got these white folks where we want ‘em and dere ain’t nothing dey can do but try to scare us. But we ain’t rabbit no more, we done turned coon. My daddy used to tell me ‘bout coon huntin. If he’s in a tree and you shake him down, he’ll kill three dogs, and if he’s in the water, he’ll drown evvy dog dats come in de water. It’s jest as many of us as the white folks and dey better watch out what they do. LEE: There are still one or two people riding the buses. What do you think about them? DOMESTIC: Honey, let any of ‘em ride who want to. Dey conscious will whip ‘em. But I ain’t gitten back on. I go to the meetin’, pay my money and be satisfied.


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LEE: (The domestic) was very neat, is of medium height and build. She appeared rather timid, but while relating her experiences with her employer about Rev. King, she appeared very forceful from facial expressions and tone of voice. DOCUMENT 4 Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women’s Political Council, wrote a letter to the Montgomery mayor six months before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, on May 21, 1954, informing him of a pending bus boycott if bus conditions for black citizens did not improve. “The Women’s Political Council is very grateful to you and the City Commissioners for the hearing you allowed our representatives during the month of March, 1954, when the ‘city-bus-fare-increase case’ was being reviewed. There were several things the Council asked for: (1) A city law that would make it possible for Negroes to sit from back toward front, and whites from front toward back until all the seats are taken; (2) That Negroes not be asked or forced to pay fare at front and go to the rear of the bus to enter; (3) That busses stop at every corner in residential sections occupied by Negroes as they do in communities where whites reside. We are happy to report that busses have been stopping at more corners now in some sections where Negroes live than previously. However, the same practices in seating and boarding the bus continue. Mayor W. A. Gayle, three-fourths of the riders of these public conveyances are Negroes. If Negroes did not patronize them, they could not possibly operate. More and more of our people are already arranging with neighbors and friends to ride to keep from being insulted and humiliated by bus drivers. There has been talk from twenty-five or more local organizations of planning a city-wide boycott of busses. We, sir, do not feel that forceful measures are necessary in bargaining for a convenience which is right for all bus passengers. We, the Council, believe that when this matter has been put before you and the Commissioners, that agreeable terms can be met in a quiet and unostensible manner to the satisfaction of all concerned. Many of our Southern cities in neighboring states have practiced the policies we seek without incident whatsoever. Atlanta, Macon and Savannah in Georgia have done this for years. Even Mobile, in our own state, does this and all the passengers are satisfied.

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Please consider this plea, and if possible, act favorably upon it, for even now plans are being made to ride less, or not at all, on our busses. We do not want this.” Stuart Burns, Daybreak to Freedom, 58. DOCUMENT 5 ‘School’ Prepares Negroes for Mass Return to Buses By the Associated Press, Published December 15, 1956 Negroes awaiting the end of bus segregation in Montgomery are being schooled by their leaders to remain peaceful “even if others strike first.” And to guide them, the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy disclosed in an interview yesterday that an effort will be made to have a Negro clergyman or civic leader aboard “every bus day and night” during the early stages of integration. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled city and state bus segregation laws unconstitutional but the formal order has not been issued pending action on a request for city and state authorities for a re-hearing. If the court acts on the rehearing petition Monday, the integration notice may reach Montgomery later next week. Meanwhile, Abernathy said as many as 1,000 Negroes are attending weekly classes designed to “prepare our people for the return to the buses and for integration in general.” He did not elaborate on the latter. The weekly instruction periods held in Negro churches, are conducted by the Montgomery Improvement Assn., the organization which has directed the long mass Negro boycott against segregated city buses. Abernathy is vice president of the MIA. Ministers and other MIA leaders along with officers of civic clubs and volunteers in each neighborhood are acting as instructors, the Baptist minister said. Besides the weekly classes, Negro civic clubs also are urged to spread the doctrine of nonviolence at their meetings. “We are trying to get over the idea of courtesy,” Abernathy explained. Outlines ‘Rules’ Abernathy said his people are being told, in substance: 1.

“If anyone argues with you at least we feel the channel of communication has been opened. If we can discuss it, that’s good. But we must remain calm, talk in the spirit of love, and maybe we can win them.” 2. “If they strike or push us, the strong thing to do is to refrain from striking or pushing back. We must be calm and reason with them. We must say to them, ‘If you want to hit me again, do it, because I’m not going to hit you back. If you want to fight me you will say to everyone on this bus that you’re weak.’”


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3. “If they threaten us with arrest, for disorderly conduct, we must go to jail peacefully because if they arrest one of us for violating no law, there are 50,000 other Negroes they’ll have to arrest, too.” Ministers Help Abernathy said the presence of Negro ministers and lay leaders on the buses “will give our people strength and let them know someone is with them. And it will help show them how to act.” In other fields of integration—the Negro minister did not disclose any plans for specific action—Abernathy said his people at the weekly meetings are told to “encourage cleanliness and politeness” and to take part in “campaigns to beautify their homes and their lawns.” The clergyman emphasized that “we’re not giving up any of our rights. We intend to ride the buses again and to ride them integrated. But we want to do it peacefully.” And, he added, “we hope the white community will join with us in this endeavor.” DOCUMENT 6 Bob Ingram with the Montgomery Advertiser outlines the Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation as Unconstitutional: SUPREME COURT OUTLAWS BUS SEGREGATION Laws requiring racial segregation on buses in Montgomery and throughout Alabama were declared unconstitutional yesterday in another historic decision by the U. S. Supreme Court. And while the decision dealt specifically with Alabama statutes and ordinances of the City of Montgomery, in effect it also outlawed similar segregation laws throughout the South since this ruling sets the precedent for all similar cases in the future. The ruling yesterday brought an immediate prediction from a Negro leader here that a decision to end the 11-month bus boycott would “unquestionably” be made at a mass meeting tonight. Calling the decision a “glorious daybreak to end a long night of enforced segregation,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared emphatically that his race would use “every legal means” to see that the court’s decision was complied with in Montgomery. OMINOUS RUMBLING But from white leaders of the city and state came warnings of possible violence and blood shed if any attempt is made to carry out the decision.

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C. C. (Jack) Owen, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission, declared that segregation must be maintained “to keep down violence and bloodshed.” And Luther Ingalls, local leader of the pro-segregation Montgomery Citizens’ Council chapter, predicted flatly that “any attempt to enforce this decision will inevitably lead to riot and bloodshed.”

BOYCOTT RESULT The court’s decision yesterday stemmed directly from Montgomery’s long boycott. The tribunal, in a unanimous decision, upheld a June 19 decision of a special three-member panel of federal judges which had ruled that Montgomery’s bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. Amid all the confusion as to the decision, one fact appeared to stand clear—the court’s decision had ended with abrupt finality any legal efforts the city or state might initiate in an attempt to preserve segregation on public conveyances. There is no appeal from a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The court order was not only unanimous, it was also brief. After citing the 1954 school segregation case and also citing subsequent decisions which outlawed segregation in public parks, playgrounds and golf links, the court ruled briefly:

MOTION GRANTED “The motion to affirm is granted and the judgement is affirmed.” This affirmation left no doubt that the Supreme Court was outlawing segregation on all bus systems. Earlier this year some question had arisen when the court simply dismissed an appeal from another decision overturning a South Carolina segregation law. That left the decision in effect but led to confusion - ended yesterday - as to the Supreme Court’s intent. Meanwhile, what action the National City Lines, Inc., will take locally became an issue of paramount importance. National City operates the local buses. Officials of the company in Chicago declined comment due to the absence of the firm’s president. Locally, no bus line official would comment on what steps might be taken in view of the decision. Also declining comment were members of the City Commission as well as Gov. James E. Folsom. Mayor W. A. Gayle, speaking for the commission, said he had not seen a copy of the decision but would make an “appropriate statement” after he has studied the court’s ruling. The court’s decision yesterday placed into immediate effect an injunction ordering the City Commission of Montgomery to cease enforcing its segregation laws.


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3 JUDGE PANEL This injunction was issued by the three-judge panel, but then held in abeyance pending the outcome of the city’s appeal. It was on this appeal that the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. There had been some question - and hope among white leaders - that the injunction might still be in abeyance, but this was ruled out by U. S. Circuit Judge Richard Rives, one of the panel members. He said the injunction would go into effect as soon as the court order reaches U. S. District Court in Montgomery. Rives said it customarily takes two to three weeks for an order to reach the local office. Judge Rives also pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday applied not only to Montgomery, but that it sets a precedent for all similar cases of the future. He noted that the City Commission and the Alabama Public Service Commission have the right to petition for a rehearing within 15 days, but he said the possibility of further delay in the effective date of the order was slight. Ingram,Bob “Supreme Court Outlaws Bus Segregation,” Montgomery Advertiser, November 14, 1956. DOCUMENT 7 The following ad drafted by the Montgomery Improvement Association listed the grievances of the MIA to justify the bus boycott. Negroes Most Urgent Needs Following are a few of the most urgent needs of our people. Immediate attention should be given each of these. What is your stand towards them? 1. The present bus situation.


Negro representation on the Parks and Recreation Board.

Negroes have to stand over empty seats of city buses because the first ten seats are reserved for whites who sometimes never ride. We wish to fill the bus from the back toward the front until all the seats are taken. This is done in Atlanta, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; and in most of our larger Southern cities. Our parks are in deplorable position. We have protested, yet nothing has been done toward improving them. Juvenile delinquency continues to increase. In many instances those

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6. 7. 8.


children are not responsible. The city is. Nobody knows better than the Negroes what their needs are. Subdivisions for housing. Just recently a project for a subdivision for Negroes was presented before the city commission for approval. Protests from whites and other objections prevented the development. There is no section wherein Negroes can expand to build decent homes. Jobs for qualified Negroes. Certain Civil Service jobs are not open to Negroes yet many are qualified. Negroes need jobs commensurate with their training. Everybody cannot teach. Negro representation on Negroes are taxpayers, property all boards affecting Negroes. owners, or renters. They constitute about forty percent of the city’s population. Many boards determine their destinies without any kind of representation whatsoever. Only Negroes are qualified to represent themselves adequately and properly. Congested areas, with adequate or no fireplugs. Fire hazards are inviting. Lack of sewage disposals makes it necessary to resort to outdoor privies, which is a health hazard. Narrow streets, lack of curbing, unpaved streets in some sections. Immediate action should be taken on these traffic hazards.

Gentlemen, what is your stand on these issues? What will you do to improve these undemocratic practices? Your stand on these issues will enable us to better decide on whom we shall cast our ballot in the March election. Very truly yours, Montgomery Negroes “Negores Most Urgent Needs” by the Montgomery Improvement Association. Courtesy, Inez Jessie Baskin Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.


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DOCUMENT 8 Two months after the boycott began, city officials arrested boycott leaders in an effort to end the protest. On February 21, 1956, the Montgomery grand jury indicted eighty-nine boycott leaders including King, Abernathy, and twentythree other ministers and boycotters under conspiracy to conduct an illegal boycott. The first case began less than one month later with Martin Luther King Jr. During King’s trial more than seventy-seven witnesses were called to testify to incidences of cruelty and injustice on city buses including members of the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP, MIA leaders, and local pastors. Below is an excerpt from the trial. The State of Alabama v. M.L. King Jr.

From transcript in Daybreak of Freedom: Thelma Glass, having been duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: DEFENSE LAWYER: State your name to the Court. THELMA GLASS: Thelma Williams Glass. DEFENSE: Do you live in Montgomery? GLASS: Yes, I do. DEFENSE: How long have you lived in Montgomery? GLASS: Since 1947. Just recently I have been working around the college at Montgomery. DEFENSE: Are you a member of the Women’s Political Council? GLASS: I am. DEFENSE: Do you know when that council was first organized? GLASS: Yes, I do. The Women’s Political Council was organized in the spring of 1949. DEFENSE: For what purpose or purposes was this council organized? GLASS: Well, maybe the best overall purpose, I could say, would be to promote good citizenship. We have maybe one or two specific activities we have always listed in our prospectus under citizenship. DEFENSE: What are those activities? GLASS: The Women’s Political Council naturally is concerned with women’s activities. In the first place, we enter into political and civic problems, particularly those relating to Negroes. In the second place, we encourage women to become registered voters, to pay poll tax and vote. In the third place, to enter those women in a better national government as a result. Most activities are proposed and designed to acquaint women with current problems.

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DEFENSE: As a member of this group, have they had any connection with the Montgomery bus situation? GLASS: Well, that is one of specific problems, particularly as relating to Negroes, and one of our current civic problems. Problems relating to the busses have recently been part of our program. DEFENSE: What were some of those problems your group has considered? PROSECUTOR: We object to what the group considered, what it did or didn’t. JUDGE: If it has to do with busses it would be admissible. What they considered wouldn’t be. DEFENSE: What particular problem has your organization taken up with the bus company, if any? GLASS: We have been trying for the past six years, we have had various committees from the Women’s Political Council who have made appeals to the city commissioners. The things particularly that we had asked for— maybe there are four specific things as I can remember that we did send committees to ask for specifically. DEFENSE: What are those things? GLASS: Well, the very first thing we objected to mainly was Negroes have had to stand over empty seats. PROSECUTOR: We object. JUDGE: Testify to what you took up with the city commission, what you told them. That would be admissible. DEFENSE: Had this group had a meeting with the city officials of Montgomery? GLASS: Oh, yes, sir, it has numerous meetings. DEFENSE: You have called on the bus company? GLASS: We have. DEFENSE: Will you tell the court what happened? PROSECUTOR: We object to that unless it is shown the time, the date it happened and where. GLASS: In November 1953, a committee from the Women’s Political Council actually asked for seven specific things, I think. Not all pertaining to the busses, but I can tell you about six of the things. PROSECUTOR: We object to anything unless it pertains to the busses.


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JUDGE: Objection sustained. GLASS: Negroes had to stand over empty seats when no whites were riding; requesting them not to occupy those seats where they are unoccupied; Negroes pay fares at the front door, get off and go to the rear door to board the bus; when fares are paid at the front passengers should get on at the front; there is a danger of a passenger being struck without the driver knowing it; and there have been instances where persons have paid their fares and the bus has driven off and left them standing; busses stop in sections occupied by whites at every corner, but in sections occupied by Negroes they stop at every other block; since all pay the same fare the busses should stop at every corner in all communities. Those are the specific things that this committee asked for in November of 1953 that deal with busses. DEFENSE: Have you had any other meetings with the city commissioners on the bus situation? GLASS: On the bus situation we have. DEFENSE: Do you remember the dates? GLASS: This meeting in March of 1954, the Women’s Political Council, along with a large labor group, the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Citizens’ Steering Committee, the Progressive Democrats, along with representatives of the Women’s Political Council. DEFENSE: Did you attend this particular meeting? GLASS: This particular meeting in March 1954, I did. PROSECUTOR: We move to strike all that testimony. JUDGE: If you were not there you wouldn’t know what happened, you couldn’t testify to that. Where you were present, you could. DEFENSE: Will you testify as to what happened at this particular meeting in 1954? GLASS: Well, we went before the commission with a full program we later on developed with a restatement of some of the same things the committee had worked on in November 1953. DEFENSE: Was that the Montgomery city commission? GLASS: That is the Montgomery city commission. The usual seating arrangement, people were still complaining of standing over empty seats; let Negroes board the busses at the front where they paid their fares; many had been left on the sidewalk after paying their fares; busses should stop at every corner; people had to walk, and they had a right complaining, and names and dates, and names of busses, the bus lines, and specific experi-

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ences with Negroes, were turned over to the commission from people who complained against the bus company. [. . .] Georgia Gilmore, having been duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: [. . .] DEFENSE: How long have you been a resident of the City of Montgomery? GEORGIA GILMORE: I don’t know how long. I came here in 1920. DEFENSE: During the time you have resided in the City of Montgomery, have you had opportunity to ride the busses owned by the Montgomery Bus Line? GILMORE: Yes, sir, I have. At that time I did all my riding on the busses. They were my sole transportation because I didn’t own any car or motor vehicle whatsoever. DEFENSE: I believe you stated you did all your riding? GILMORE: Did all my riding. DEFENSE: When did you stop riding the busses? GILMORE: October of 1955. DEFENSE: For what purpose did you cease riding the busses? GILMORE: The last of October, 1955, on a Friday afternoon between the hours of three and five o’clock I was on the corner of Court and Montgomery Street, and I usually rode Oak Park or South Jackson busses for both of them came up to that corner. This particular Oak Park bus came up to the corner. I don’t know the driver’s name. I would know him if I saw him. He is tall and has red skin. This bus driver is tall, hair red, and has freckles, and wears glasses. He is a very nasty bus driver. This particular time the bus was pretty near full of colored people, only two white people on the bus. I put my money in the cash box and then he told me to get off. He shouted I had to get on in back. I told him I was already on the bus and I couldn’t see why I had to get off. A lot of colored people were in the middle aisle almost half way to the front, couldn’t he let me stand there? Other people were down there, colored, not white passengers. He said, “I told you to get off and go around and get in the back door.” I have a rather high temper and I figured, I have never been in any trouble whatsoever in my life. I was always taught that two wrongs don’t make a right. PROSECUTOR: We object to this. JUDGE: All right.


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GILMORE: I am just telling you. So I got off the front door and went around the side of the bus to get in the back door, and when I reached the back door and was about to get on he shut the back door and pulled off, and I didn’t even ride the bus after paying my fare. So I decided right then and there I wasn’t going to ride the busses anymore, because of what happened in there. I was upset within myself, for I was so aggravated with the driver I didn’t want to raise any fuss. And so I haven’t missed the busses because I really don’t have to ride them. The taxi takes me in the morning—I haven’t returned to the busses—I walk, just to get a taxi in the morning and walk home. My children going to school— PROSECUTOR: We object to what her children do. DEFENSE: You are a member of the Negro race, are you? GILMORE: I am. DEFENSE: Believe you said the bus driver was nasty to you? GILMORE: He was. DEFENSE: What do you mean by the fact that he was nasty to you? GILMORE: Well, I didn’t mean going around to the back door. What he said: “Nigger, get out that door and go around to the back door.” I resented his tone because I had already paid my fare. When I paid my fare and they got the money they don’t know Negro money from white money. DEFENSE: Have you had any other unpleasant experiences riding busses prior to October? GILMORE: Yes, sir, various. Many times I have been standing without any white people on the bus and have taken seats, and when the driver sees you he says, “You have to move because those seats aren’t for you Negroes.” DEFENSE: During your experience riding busses in the City of Montgomery have you observed other bus drivers that have mistreated Negro passengers? GILMORE: Lot of times I have seen people mistreated positively for nothing. DEFENSE: What type of treatment have you generally received from these bus drivers? Have you ever heard any Negroes at all call the drivers any names? GILMORE: No, never have. DEFENSE: Have you heard the drivers call the Negroes any names? GILMORE: I have.

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DEFENSE: What are some names you heard? GILMORE: “Black bastard,” and “Back up, nigger, you ain’t got no damn business up here, get back where you belong.” DEFENSE: You say this happened frequently? GILMORE: Lots of times, because at that time I rode the bus daily. DEFENSE: Can you give the name of another Negro citizen you observed being mistreated by them? GILMORE: I cannot remember the names of anybody else except my mother, and she is deceased now. DEFENSE: What happened in her case? PROSECUTOR: We object unless she was present. DEFENSE: Were you present? GILMORE: Yes, sir, I was. DEFENSE: What happened in her case? GILMORE: She was an old person and it was hard for her to get in and out of the bus except the front door. The bus was crowded that evening with everybody coming home from work. She went to the front door to get on the bus, and this bus driver was mean and surly, and when she asked him if she could get in the front door he said she would have to go around and get in the back door, and she said she couldn’t get in, the steps were too high. He said she couldn’t go in the front door. He said, “You damn niggers are all alike. You don’t want to do what you are told. If I had my way I would kill off every nigger person.” And she always said, “You cannot ride, you are riding among maniacs,” and she said— PROSECUTOR: We object to what she said. JUDGE: Sustain the objection. GILMORE: Makes me mad to think about it. [. . .] Martha K. Walker, having been duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: DEFENSE: During the time you were riding these busses did you have any unpleasant experiences with the bus driver? MARTHA WALKER: Many of them. DEFENSE: Do you recall specifically the last unpleasant experience? WALKER: Yes, sir, I do recall. DEFENSE: When was that?


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WALKER: It was 1955. DEFENSE: Tell us about that and when. WALKER: Before Thanksgiving of 1955, I went out to get the bus on North Ripley Street, coming to town. I guess about four busses passed me up with about five or six colored people in the back. They had plenty of room up front to have gotten on them and sit back there on all of them. I had my husband with me, of course. He is blind and I was taking him down to the Veterans’ Administration this particular day. So it took so long to get a bus, although the bus situation out that way is bad anyway. So I turned around and went back in my apartment and called the manager of the bus company. I got him on the phone, so I told him we had been passed up by four busses, and the fifth bus stopped and we got on the bus and rode to town. They had plenty of room in the front to sit in the back. We sat behind the back door on the little short seat there to the right. DEFENSE: How far was that seat from the rear of the bus? How many seats between the seat in which you sat and the back of the bus? WALKER: One long seat and the side. DEFENSE: So you were just one seat from the rear of the bus? WALKER: That is right. DEFENSE: You were not in the middle, were you? WALKER: No. DEFENSE: You were not in the front of the bus? WALKER: That is right. DEFENSE: Go right ahead and tell us. WALKER: He said when we go to Decatur Street and Columbus Street there, we had to get up, a couple of white girls got on the bus. And at that time my husband was blind. His condition is better now, but he is sightless though. And we still sat there. And that bus had two sets of empty seats, the front part was filled except two empties. And I was looking up toward the mirror and watching him because I was expecting some unruly words. He stopped. After he went another block he stopped. I think it was, I guess, in another block, in another street going up to Robinson’s Corner Market, in that block, and I was still in a nervous strain there, and he looked back again, and then he pulled off and stopped within, you know, the middle of the block, and said, “Don’t you niggers see that empty seat behind you?” I said, “Yes, I see it.” He said, “Well, get up and get on back there.” Well, that just tore my husband. We got up and got off the bus. Now, that is true, that experience.

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DEFENSE: How far were you when you got off the bus, how far were you from your destination? WALKER: It was near a feed store down there. I believe they call it the Alabama Feed Store, if I am not mistaken. We walked from there to the Veterans’ Administration with me leading him [. . .] DEFENSE: Have you had other unpleasant experiences with the bus drivers or buscompany? WALKER: Yes, I have. DEFENSE: Do you recall any specific incidence? WALKER: Yes, I do. DEFENSE: Will you tell us when it was and where it was? WALKER: In 1954. DEFENSE: Where was this? WALKER: In Montgomery. DEFENSE: On which line, which bus line? WALKER: Maxwell Field bus line. DEFENSE: Go ahead, tell us about that. WALKER: My husband was coming back home again from the Veterans’ hospital, from the Tuskegee Hospital, and he had his sight taken from him in Germany— PROSECUTOR: We object to all these preliminaries. They wouldn’t have anything to do with this specific incidence. JUDGE: Yes. She said she was with him and he was blind. Tell what happened on the bus. WALKER: Well, we were on this bus, we boarded the bus downtown and our destination was to get off at Dickerson and Clay Street, we were living on Clay, and it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and we pulled the cord. Different times I had to pull it to stop before it stopped. We pulled the cord in time for him to get stopped, and by the time he stopped, I thought he must have been stopping, I got ready to get my husband off the bus. Now, he noticed me when I left the bus, I was leading my husband. And when I got ready to get off he slowed down, he didn’t stop, he slowed up. When he slowed up, I stepped down on the side of the step there, and he opened the door. I got out, ready for my husband to step down, and just as my husband put his left foot down, the driver started on out with his right foot still on the bus, and I screamed, and a white lady was in there and she said to wait a moment. Well, finally I jiggled his foot free, he couldn’t get loose


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by himself, and with me helping him he did, and he got his foot out. I ran in a store at the corner of Dickerson and Clay and said—I was crying—I said, “I just had some trouble with a bus operator.” PROSECUTOR: We object to any hearsay testimony. JUDGE: Objection sustained. WALKER: I have to give that. PROSECUTOR: Don’t testify about that. JUDGE: Tell what you know yourself. WALKER: Anyway, I know it broke the skin on his right ankle. DEFENSE: What did you do in that store, did you do something there? WALKER: I got the manager of the bus company’s name from the white lady that runs the store. DEFENSE: What else did you do? WALKER: When I left there I left my husband standing over there by her building and crossed the street on the other side. When the bus came back coming toward town, I knew, I recognized the bus. I waited for him. When he came back I stopped him. I said, “Look yourself what you just done to my husband.” He said, “I don’t remember seeing you niggers on the bus.” DEFENSE: I believe you said he used the word “niggers”? WALKER: Yes. DEFENSE: Spell that word for us. WALKER: N-i-g-g-e-r-s, niggers. DEFENSE: Go ahead. WALKER: I said, “My husband and I got off that bus there.” And I said, “He caught his foot in the door and broke the skin here on his ankle.” He said, “I didn’t do no such damn thing.” That is the way he worded it. I said, “He is over there on the corner to prove it.” I said, “If you cannot give me any consideration,” I said, “I am afraid I will have to take further steps.” It didn’t do any good, of course. DEFENSE: Did you report the accident to the bus company? WALKER: I certainly did. DEFENSE: Did you hear from them? WALKER: They promised me I would, but I never did [. . .]

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Circuit Court, Montgomery County Records, Montgomery, Alabama. State of Alabama v. M.L. King Jr., March 19–22, 1956. From The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., Vol. 3: M. L. KING JR., having been duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows: Direct Examination BY LAWYER SHORES: Q. Will you state your full name? A. Martin Luther King Jr. Q. What is your occupation? A. I am a minister. Q. You are the minister of one of the local churches here in Montgomery, Alabama? A. Yes, I am minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Q. Are you a member of the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Yes, I am. Q. Are you an official of this organization? A. I am. Q. Are you one of the organizers of the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Yes, I was in the meeting when it was organized. Q. For what purpose was this organization formulated? A. Well, the name itself covers the basic purposes of the organization, to improve the general status of Montgomery, to improve race relations, and to uplift the general tenor of the community. Q. How does one become a member of the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Well, any citizen who is interested in becoming a member of the Montgomery Improvement Association can become a member—there are no dues—it is just a matter of being interested in improving Montgomery, thereby one can become a member. Q. There are no joining fees or dues? A. No. Q. From what source is the Association receiving its funds?


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A. Well, the funds have been received from free-will offerings, individuals who have given freely for the fund. Q. Have you any idea about how much this Association has received? A. I don’t know the exact figures on that. I don’t have them. That is in the hands of the Finance Committee. Q. Are members of the Montgomery Improvement Association restricted by race or to any particular race? A. No, not at all, anyone. Q. Have there been mass meetings held by the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Yes. Q. Have you attended those meetings? A. Yes, I have. Q. Have you presided at those meetings? A. Some of them. Q. Have you spoken at those meetings? A. Yes, I have. Q. During the course of your speeches have you urged any of the listeners or members of the MIA to refrain from riding the busses of the Montgomery City Lines? A. No, I have not. My exposition has always been “to let your conscience be your guide, if you want to ride that is all right.” Q. Have those meetings always been open to anybody, the members, as well as to all citizens? A. Yes, they have. Q. Have you urged any violence, or any of these violent acts that have been testified about here in Court, have you urged any of the members to perform any of those acts? A. No, I have not. My motivation has been the exact converse of that; I urged nonviolence at all points. Q. Do you know if any members urged anybody to do acts of violence or perpetrate acts of violence? A. No, sir, I do not. I never heard that mentioned.

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Q. I believe there have been several proposals mentioned. Have you attended any of the meetings called by the mayor or other groups who tried to solve the bus situation? A. Yes, I have. Q. And have you carried proposals back to the organization for presentation to its members? A. Yes, I have. Q. And what was the reaction, or what action was taken on these proposals? A. Well, they were always rejected by the people. We made it clear we couldn’t make any final statement on any of the proposals and they had to be taken back to the people, and we did that through the mass meetings, and when they were rejected I would make the contact and let the officials know what happened. Q. Do you know what these proposals were? A. Well, to the best of my recollection, the main proposal was, or the main one we took back was the proposal to reserve ten seats in the front for the Negro passengers and ten seats in the back for white passengers. Also included in that was a guarantee of courtesy. Now, that is about the substance of that proposal. Q. Did you say ten seats in front for Negroes or white? A. I mean white passengers, ten in front for white passengers and ten in the rear for Negro passengers. Q. What proposals did your group present for the bus company’s consideration? A. We presented three proposals. The first dealt with the question of courtesy; that is, more courteous treatment from the bus drivers themselves. The second proposal dealt with the whole question of seating; that we requested a seating arrangement based on a first-come, first-served basis, Negro passengers seating from the rear of the bus to the front, and white passengers from the front to the rear with no reserved with no reserved seats for anybody. And the third proposal was a request to hire Negro bus drivers on predominantly Negro lines. Q. And what was the reaction to those proposals by the bus company and the city officials? A. On their part those proposals were rejected. There was some concession on the first proposal—that is the question of courtesy—the others were rejected outright at every meeting we attended.


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Q. Did the Montgomery Improvement Association organize this car pool? A. Yes. Q. Will you describe the operation of this car pool? A. Well, the car pool is just a matter of individuals volunteering to give their cars for the purpose of transporting persons to and from their jobs and their business. These persons volunteered to place their cars in the pool from the pick-up stations and dispatch stations, and these cars will be there at certain hours for the purpose of transporting people to various places. Q. Are the persons charged any fees for being transported? A. No, they are not. Q. Are the persons paid for operating their cars? A. No. Q. Is there any payment made to persons who own cars? A. No. Q. To operate them in the pool? Or anything? A. Well there is a payment which is for the purpose of upkeep—that is for the wear and tear on the cars. We have all day drivers, about twenty all day drivers that start at six o’clock in the morning and work throughout the day, and there is a bonus given for the purpose of wear and tear on the car, and no one is paid a salary for driving. Q. Are you paid a salary by the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. No, I am not. Q. Is anyone paid a salary? A. No. Q. Do you know anything about these incidents of vandalism or unrest that were testified to here by the witnesses on the stand? A. No, other than reading about them, and I don’t know anything else about them. I just heard about them. Q. Do you know whether or not anyone in your organization has ever resorted to any acts of vandalism? A. No, I don’t. I am sure I know of no one in the organization has anything to do with it or responsible for it. Q. Have any acts of vandalism, or acts of intimidation or worrisome nature, been perpetrated against you?

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A. Yes, very definitely. Q. What act of violence was perpetrated against you or your home? A. Well, my home has been bombed on one occasion, and I have received numerous threats. I couldn’t really give the number. I received numerous threats. Q. And at the time your house was bombed did you or any member of your organization to your knowledge urge any member of your organization or anybody else to commit violence? A. No, just the opposite. Q. I believe some statement was made about a telephone conversation between you and the mayor where terms of the proposal was accepted by you and later rejected. Did you receive any proposal from the mayor with respect to the settlement of this controversy over the telephone? And later rejected? A. No, I did not. I have never received a proposal that I accepted. I have always contended I could only take it up with the people, and that is what I said to Mayor Gayle, when he offered the proposal over the phone, I would take it up with the people, and that is as far as I would go. And he was to call me back on Friday to discuss it, but he never called back. Q. And have you always taken the proposals to the people to have them decide whether or not the proposal would be accepted? A. Yes, sir, I have. Q. And what has been the results of taking the proposals back to the people? A. Well, to this point all of the proposals I took to the people and put before them they felt were not satisfactory so they have rejected the proposals to this point. Q. Have you any concern for the status of Negroes in Montgomery? THE SOLICTOR: We object to that. THE COURT: If you connect it with the Montgomery Improvement Association as a member. BY LAWYER SHORES: Q. Does everyone connected with the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Yes they do have concern for the general status of Negroes here. Q. Is it, or not, a fact your activities in connection with the Montgomery Improvement Association constitute a part of your effort to improve the Negro status in Montgomery?


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A. That is right, quite right. Q. In connection with the transportation was Rev. Glasco paid any amount in connection with transportation? A. Yes. Q. Do you recall what amount was paid? A. No, I don’t remember the exact amount offhand. Q. The finances are not handled by you, are they? A. No. Q. You have a finance committee? A. That is right. Q. Is there an office worker that receives any pay? A. Office worker? Q. Yes. A. Yes. Q. How many office workers that you pay a salary? A. I think it is seven. Q. Seven? A. Yes, that is right. Cross Examination BY THE SOLICITOR: Q. This bus boycott or bus protest, whatever you choose to call it, was called for the fifth of December through a series of little pamphlets—you are familiar with what I am talking about? A. Yes, I am familiar. Q. It is true they appeared on the streets a day or two before the protest meeting concerning alleged grievances? A. I really couldn’t say. I don’t know if the pamphlets were put out for more than one day. I just don’t recall what the pamphlet said concerning the time. Q. Those pamphlets were pretty well distributed over Montgomery? A. Yes. Q. Starting about Thursday or Friday before the fifth of December; is that true?

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A. That is true, yes. .

Q. Did you see any of these pamphlets? A. Yes, I remember seeing one of them. Q. I believe you and a group of other men met on Monday afternoon? A. That is true, yes. Q. And formed the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. That is right. Q. How many of you were there? If you like to, we have the minutes of the meeting here for the purpose of refreshing your recollection. This is just a photostatic copy of them. A. All of these persons were present. (Indicating) Q. Did you personally know all of them? A. Oh, yes, sir. Q. Refreshing your recollection, how many of them? A. According to the minutes, eighteen. Q. After refreshing your recollection would you say there were substantially that number? A. That is right. Q. Where did this meeting take place? A. It was held at the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church. Q. Around 3 pm on December the fifth? A. That is right. Q. At that time you formed the Montgomery Improvement Association? A. Yes, we did. Q. You elected your officers? A. Yes. Q. Elected an Executive Committee too, I believe? Refreshing your recollection, “Moved and second that the sixteen persons here”—the minutes up here show eighteen present—”And a suggestion that nine names be brought in making twenty-five which constitutes the Executive Committee.” Do you remember the Executive Committee of twenty-five with nine others to be named? A. Yes, that is right. I remember that.


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Q. Now, I believe your transportation committee was set up at that time, and your finance committee; is that true? A. No. My best judgment, they were not. Maybe I am wrong. Q. Was it agreed at that time to set up the transportation and finance committee, names to be supplied later? A. I don’t know. Q. Refresh your recollection with this. I don’t know exactly what it means myself. On page 3 of these minutes it simply shows transportation committee and finance. Can you explain what that means? A. I don’t know, and that really isn’t clear enough for me to make any statement concerning it. I really don’t remember about these committees. Q. Let me ask you this. Did you have anything to do with what I will refer to as the first boycott, the boycott called for December the fifth? A. No. Do you mean if I have anything to do with calling it? Q. That’s right. A. No, I didn’t. Q. Do you know who did? A. No, I don’t. It was a spontaneous beginning, one of those things which just had been smoldering. Q. Do you know who printed those pamphlets? A. No, I don’t. Q. Do you know that the Montgomery Improvement Association according to all the testimony we have had here up to now has spent of this money it collected some $30,000 in supporting the boycott or protest; is that correct? A. That would be impossible to say. I don’t know enough about it. Q. Do you know any other money that has been spent; you sign all the checks, don’t you? A. Yes, I do. I would say most of it has been used for that. Q. And you couldn’t give us any amount or in which manner it has been spent other than on the boycott or protest? A. Well, I don’t have it before me. I don’t remember of any. Q. I note in your minutes of that first meeting “It was recommended that Resolutions would be drawn up,” and a Resolutions Committee was appointed?

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A. Yes. Q. You were on that committee, I take it? A. I don’t believe I worked on the Resolutions Committee. That committee was appointed. Q. Your minutes show “The President, Rev. M.L. King, Attorney Gray and Attorney Langford is on the committee.” Is that true? They are your minutes, aren’t they? A. It might be true. I was on the committee and I had worked with the committee. Q. Who drew up that Resolution? A. This committee, this Resolutions Committee. Q. Who was on the Resolutions Committee at that time? A. I don’t remember. Q. When was the Resolution drawn up? A. Sometime during the meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church. Q. You are telling the Court that the Resolution wasn’t drawn up at the afternoon meeting, but it was drawn up that night; is that what you are telling us? A. That is right. Q. And it was also agreed at the afternoon meeting that the protest would be continued; is that correct? A. I don’t know. Q. Let me read it to refresh your recollection, or you can read it. A. Well, that is true according to the minutes, according to the minutes here. I don’t remember the discussion at this point. Q. You are familiar with that Resolution I take it? A. Well, I have seen it. Q. You have seen it? A. Yes, I have. Q. You stated you have never asked anybody not to ride the busses. Let me read you what the Resolution says. It says: “That the citizens of Montgomery are requesting that every citizen in Montgomery, regardless of race, color or creed, to refrain from riding busses owned and operated in the City of Montgomery by the Montgomery City Lines, Incorporated


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until some arrangement has been worked out between said citizens and the Montgomery City Lines, Incorporated.” You say this was made up on that night. That is what the Resolution says. A. I didn’t read the Resolution. Q. You heard the Resolution read? A. This was done by the committee. Oh, yes. Q. You were there? A. Oh, yes sir. Q. Who read the Resolution? A. My best recollection, Rev. Abernathy read the Resolution. Q. Rev. Abernathy? A. Yes, sir. Q. This is the Resolution the Montgomery Improvement Association presented at that mass meeting; is that correct? A. Yes, it was presented at that meeting. Q. In other words, what the Montgomery Improvement Association did, as I unooderstand [sic] it, is to back an existing one-day boycott and by this the protest or whatever you want to call it, has extended over a period of several months and it is still in existence; is that substantially true? A. Yes and no. The last part is true, it is still in existence. Now, as to the first part I would say that the Montgomery Improvement Association came into being in an attempt to improve the general status of the city plus the— Q. This is not in response to my question at all. A. I was fixing to give the other part of it. Q. That wasn’t responsive to my question. THE COURT: Ask it again. BY THE SOLICITOR: Q. I ask you this. I said the Montgomery Improvement Association, as I understand it, backed an existing one-day boycott and has through its transportation committee and others urged people not to ride the busses, and that situation is still existing today? A. No, I wouldn’t say so. Q. Isn’t that the way it came about?

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A. No. Q. When did you come here to Montgomery? A. I came to Montgomery in 1954. Q. You have been here about a year and a half, two years? A. That is right. Q. Since you have been here how many times have you ridden busses? A. Only one. Q. How many white members have you at this time in the Montgomery Improvement Association, to your knowledge? A. I really don’t know. We don’t keep records of those by race. I couldn’t say how many white members we have. Q. How many do you think that are members of the Montgomery Improvement Association that are white? A. Well, I don’t know. I know Rev. Graetz is a member, and we probably have some other. I know we have some other. Q. Do you know of any? A. I know we have some others. Q. Who are they? A: I don’t recall at this point. Q. How many members do you have? A. I don’t know. We don’t keep a record of that. Q. Coming back to the minutes of your first meeting: “It was passed that the recommendations from the committee be given to the citizens at the night of the meeting.” That is right, isn’t it? A. That is right. Q. The recommendation they are referring to there was the recommendation that the protest or boycott be continued; is that correct? A. I don’t think I quite caught your question. Q. You testified that “It was passed that the recommendations from the committee be given to the citizens at the night meeting.” You say that is right? A. What Resolutions does that refer to? Q. “It was passed that the recommendations,” as you see this here. (Indicating)


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A. What recommendation does that refer to? Q. I don’t know. I wasn’t at the meeting. A. This don’t say about what. I really don’t remember what transpired about that there. Q. Don’t know what is means? A. No, I really don’t. [. . .]

JUDGEMENT AND SENTENCE OF THE COURT THURSDAY, MARCH 22ND, A.D.1956 COURT MET PURSUANT TO ADJOURNMENT PRESENT THE HONORABLE EUGENE W. CARTER, JUDGE PRESIDING. THE STATE #7399 INDICTMENT FOR VIO. SECTION 54 M. L. KING, JUNIOR TITLE 14 CODE OF ALABAMA 1940. This day came the State by its Solicitor and came also the defendant in his own proper person and by attorney; and the said defendant being duly arraigned upon the indictment for his plea thereto says he is not guilty. And after taking of testimony on behalf of the State and after the State had rested its case; the defendant filed a motion to exclude all of the evidence introduced by the State; and said motion being argued by counsel and understood by the Court, it is considered and ordered by the Court that said motion to exclude be and the same is hereby overruled. And after the completion of all testimony in said cause; and after hearing said testimony, and after hearing arguments of counsel, the Court being of opinion, it is considered and order by the Court, and it is in the judgment of the Court that the said defendant is guilty as charged in the complaint and a fine of five hundred ($500.00) dollars was assessed against him by the Court. And said fine and cost not being paid; and the said defendant being asked by the Court if he had anything to say why the sentence of the law should not now be pronounced upon him says nothing. It is therefore considered and adjudged by the Court that the said defendant perform hard labor for Montgomery County for one hundred forty days for the fine; and the cost of this prosecution not being presently paid or otherwise secured, and the same being now ascertained and amount $184.00 it is further considered and adjudged by the Court, and it is the judgment and sentence of the Court that the said defendant perform hard labor for Montgomery County for an additional term of 246 days in payment of

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said costs at the rate of 75 cents per diem, making in all 386 days during which said defendant is to perform hard labor for Montgomery County beginning from this day and ending on the 12 day of April, 1957. And questions of law arising in this case for the decision of the court of Appeals of Alabama, the defendant gives notice of appeal and requests a suspension of sentence pending said appeal; it is therefore considered and ordered by the Court that pending said appeal to said Court of Alabama this sentence be and the same is hereby suspended and that pending said appeal the defendant may be admitted to bail in the sum of $1,000.00 to be made and approved as required by law. T.D. Transcript, State of Alabama v. M.L. King Jr., No. 7399 (Court of Appeals of Alabama, 1956), pp. 482–507; copy in AAGR-A-Ar:SG 8423. DOCUMENT 9 Under the advice of Clifford Durr, Fred Gray sought to file a lawsuit of discrimination directly with the federal court. Four black women volunteered for the fight and stepped into the legal ring, filing Browder v. Gayle. The plaintiffs were Aurelia Browder and Susie McDonald, Montgomery housewives; Claudette Colvin; and Mary Louise Smith. All of these women had suffered abuse and humiliation on Montgomery buses. The case charged Montgomery’s mayor, city commissioners, and the police commissioner with disputing the constitutionality of segregation on Alabama’s public transportation system. This case became the vehicle to breaking Jim Crow laws and segregation in Montgomery, as well as a springboard to the era of civil rights across America. An excerpt appears below: BROWDER V. GAYLE Transcript from Daybreak of Freedom: IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA NORTHERN DIVISION AURELIA S. BROWDER, and SUSIE MCDONALD, and CLAUDETTE COLVIN, by Q.Q. Colvin, next friend, and MARY LOUISE SMITH, by Frank Smith, next friend, and others similarly situated Plaintiffs, vs. W. A. GAYLE, CLYDE SELLERS, and FRANK PARKS, individually and as members of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Montgomery, Alabama, and GOODWYN J. RUPPENTHAL, individually and as Chief of Police of the City of Montgomery, Alabama and THE MONTGOMERY


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CITY LINES, INC., a Corporation, and JAMES F. BLAKE and ROBERT CLEERE, and C.C. (Jack) OWEN. JIMMY HITCHCOCK, and SIBYL POOL, as members of the ALABAMA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION. Defendants, Before Judge Rives, Judge Lynne, and Judge Johnson. AURELIA BROWDER, Called as a witness first being duly sworn, testified as follows: DIRECT EXAMINATION MR. GRAY: Q. State your name, Miss Browder? A. Aurelia Browder. Q. Where do you live? A. 1012 Highland Avenue. Q. Prior to December 5, 1955, did you live here in Montgomery? A. Yes. Q. Prior to December 5, 1955, did you ride the city buses? A. Yes, two to four times a day. Q. Have you been riding those buses since December 5, 1955? A. No. Q. Why did you stop riding them? A. I had stopped riding because I wanted better treatment. I knew if I would cooperate with my color I would finally get it. Q. Have you personally experienced any difficulty on the bus in connection with the seating arrangement? A. Yes, several times. Q. Will you please tell the Court what happened? A. April 29 of last year I was on the Day Street Bus, I got a transfer from Oak Park Bus in front of Price Drug Store. After I rode up by the Alabama Gas Company bus driver had three of us to get up and stand to let a white man and a white lady sit down. Q. When you say three of you, do you mean yourself along with two other Negroes? A. Myself and two other Negroes. I was sitting in a seat and another lady beside me. And the seat just across from me there was just one colored

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person in there. And he made all three of us get up because he said we was in the white section of the bus. Q. If you were permitted to sit anyplace you wanted on the bus, would you be willing to ride again? A. Yes, I would. Q. That is all. JUDGE RIVES: You may arrange to cross-examine. A, The attorney for the Public Service Commission has no questions to ask this witness. MR. KNABE: You say you stopped riding the buses about December 5, 1955, is that correct? A. Yes, sir. Q. And I believe you said you stopped riding at that time because you wanted better treatment, is that correct? A. That is right. Q. It is a fact, is it not, that at that time the Rev. King and several others, so-called Improvement Association I believe, made such a demand, is that right? A. No. Q. They did make some requests, did they not? A. I would not call it that. Q. What would you call it then? A. We, the Negroes, request the Rev. King, and not he over us. Q. You didn’t understand my question. Did Negro King ask three certain things at that time, did he not. One was, you said, for more courteous treatment on the part of the bus drivers, this is correct, isn’t it? A. The Reverend King did not ask that, the Negroes asked that. Q. Very well, but he was the mouthpiece for the Negroes, was he not? A. We employed him to be our mouthpiece. Q. I see. And that is one of the things that you asked for, that is correct is it not? A. That is correct. Q. And then you asked for seating, first-come, first-served, didn’t you?


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A. Yes. Q. And then you asked for the employment of Negro drivers, that is correct, isn’t it? A. Yes. Q. And you said unless you were granted all three of them you would not return to riding on the bus, is that correct? A. Yes. Q. In other words, you did not stop on account of segregation but you stopped riding before segregation issue was ever raised, that is correct isn’t it? A. It is the segregation laws of Alabama that caused all of it. Q. Just answer the question, isn’t it a fact that your mouthpiece took into . . . A. No! He did not put it into us! Q. Is it not true that he put into the newspaper a statement of his requests, and he specifically stated in that, that the segregation statutes were not involved? Do you know that, didn’t you read what he put in the papers? A. Yes, I did [. . .] Claudette COLVIN, called as a witness, being duly sworn, testified as follows: FRED GRAY, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS: State your name? CLAUDETTE COLVIN: Claudette Colvin. GRAY: What is your address, Miss Colvin? COLVIN: 658 Dixie Drive. GRAY: How old are you? COLVIN: Sixteen. GRAY: Who are your parents? COLVIN: C.P. Colvin and Mary Ann Colvin. GRAY: You are one of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit? COLVIN: Yes. GRAY: Prior to December 5, 1955, did you ride the city buses? COLVIN: Yes. GRAY: How often did you ride?

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COLVIN: Twice a day. GRAY: Have you rode the buses since then? COLVIN: No. GRAY: Did you have an incident at any time while you were riding the buses? COLVIN: Yes. GRAY: When did this occur? COLVIN: March 2, 1955. GRAY: What bus did you ride? COLVIN: Highland Gardens. GRAY: About what time was it? COLVIN: About 2:30 pm. GRAY: Where were you on the way to? COLVIN: I was going home from school. GRAY: Will you please tell the Court exactly what happened on March 2, 1955? COLVIN: I rode the bus and it was turning on Perry and Dexter Avenue, and me and some other schoolchildren, I sit on the seat on the left-hand side, on the seat just above the emergency door, me and another girl beside me. GRAY: You say another girl was sitting by you and another girl was sitting across from you, do you mean those two girls were Negroes? COLVIN: Yes, sir. And he drove on down to the next block, and by the time all the people got in there, he seen there were no more vacant seats. He asked us to get up, and the big girl got up but I didn’t. So he drove on down into the Square, and some more people boarded the bus. So, Mrs. Hamilton, she got on the bus, and she sat down beside me, and that leaves the other seat vacant. GRAY: You mean that from across the aisle the other two girls had gotten up when the bus driver requested them to? COLVIN: Yes, sir. So he looked back through the window and he saw us, and he was surprised to see she [Hamilton] was sitting down, too. He asked her to get up then and he asked both of us to get up. She said she was not going to get up, she didn’t feel like it. He drove on down to the next corner or block, rather. And he got up and asked us to get up. So, he directly asked me to get up first. So I told him I was not going to get up. He said, “If you


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are not going to get up I will get a policeman.” So, he went somewhere and got a policeman. He [policeman] said, “Why are you not going to get up?” He said, “It is against the law here.” So I told him that I didn’t know that it was a law that a colored person had to get up and give a white person a seat when there were not any more vacant seats and colored people were standing up. I said I was just as good as any white person and I wasn’t going to get up. So he got off. And then two more policemen came in. He said, “Who is it?” And he was very angry about it. He said: “That is not new, I had trouble out of that thing before.” So, he said: “Aren’t you going to get up?” He didn’t say anything to Mrs. Hamilton then. He just said it to me. He said: “Aren’t you going to get up?” I said, “no.” He saw Mrs. Hamilton but he was afraid to ask her to get up. He said, “If any of you are not gentleman enough to give a lady a seat you should be put in jail, yourself.” So, Mr. Harris, he got up and gave her a seat, and immediately got off the bus. He said, “You can have that seat, I am getting off.” And so she taken his seat. So he asked me, if I was not going to get up. I said, “No, sir.” I was crying then, I was very hurt because I didn’t know that white people would act like that and I was crying. And he said, “I will have to take you off.” So I didn’t move. I didn’t move at all. I just acted like a big baby. So he kicked me and one got on one side of me and one got the other arm and they just drug me out. And so I was very pitiful. It really hurt me to see that I have to give a person a seat, when all those colored people were standing and there were not any more vacant seats. I had never seen nothing like that. Well, they take me down, they put me in a car and one of the motorcycle men, he says, “I am sorry to have to take you down like this.” So they put handcuffs on me through the window. GRAY: After that where did they take you? COLVIN: They taken me to the City Hall. GRAY: While you were at the City Hall, did anyone ask your age? COLVIN: Yes, they asked my age and everything. GRAY: Where did you go from the City Hall? COLVIN: I went to the City Jail. GRAY: Did they mention anything to you about taking you to the Detention Home? The Juvenile Court instead of the City Jail? COLVIN: Yes, sir. One of the policemen. GRAY: So they took you to the City Jail? COLVIN: Yes, sir.

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GRAY: How long were you there? COLVIN: It was over an hour. GRAY: What happened when you got to the City Jail? COLVIN: Well, all the people were staring at me, and asked me what was wrong. One of the policemen said, “She didn’t want to sit back there with the Negroes!” And so he said: “If any more of them act like that—she was the only one that didn’t want to move back.” So they put me in the cell and locked the door. GRAY: And you stayed there until your parents came and made bond? COLVIN: Yes, sir. GRAY: What were you charged with? COLVIN: I was charged with violating the City Code, or certain sections of the City Code. GRAY: Were you convicted? COLVIN: Yes, I was. WALTER KNABE, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS: You have changed, that is, you and the other Negroes have changed your ideas since December 5, have you not? COLVIN: No, sir. We haven’t changed our ideas. It has been in me ever since I was born. KNABE: But, the group stopped riding the busses for certain named things, that is correct, isn’t it? COLVIN: For what? GRAY: For certain things that Reverend King said were the things you objected to? COLVIN: No, sir. It was in the beginning when they arrested me, when they seen how dirty they treated the Negro girls here, that they had began to feel like that all the time, though some of us just didn’t have the guts to stand up. KNABE: Did you have a leader when you started this bus boycott? COLVIN: Did we have a leader? Our leaders is just we ourself. Southeast Region, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Transcript of Records and Proceedings, Browder v. Gayle, May 11, 1956.


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CHRONOLOGY 1863 January 1 The Emancipation Proclamation becomes effective. 1865 December 18, The Thirteenth Amendment is adopted, guaranteeing all United States citizens equal treatment by law. 1896 In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court rules that segregation is acceptable if equal treatment is administered. The ruling made segregated public facilities constitutional. 1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) is founded to encourage civil rights and voting among blacks. 1945 April 15, The Alabama chapter of the NAACP is formed at Dexter Avenue Church. Additionally, black WWII veterans in Alabama push for greater involvement in local citizenship. 1945 December, E.D. Nixon is elected as the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. 1948 E.D. Nixon becomes Alabama’s state NAACP president. 1949 The Women’s Political Council is formed as a civic organization of black women in Montgomery by Mary Fair Banks, head of the English Department at Alabama State College. 1950–1953 Blacks are integrated into Korean War military units for the first time. 1953 The Women’s Political Council meets with city commissioners to protest treatment of blacks on the city buses. 1954 May 17, In Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas the Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in schools is unequal and unconstitutional.

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May 21, Jo Ann Robinson, president of the WPC, writes Montgomery mayor, W.A. Gayle, warning him of a bus boycott if treatment of black patrons, in particular the female clientele, doesn’t improve. July 11, The White Citizens Council is formed in Indianola, Mississippi, to fight integration of public schools. Other chapters start forming around the South. September 1, Martin Luther King Jr. becomes pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. 1955 February 23, E.D. Nixon, a union leader and past president of the Alabama NAACP, organizes a political forum, held by the Progressive Democratic Association, to question candidates for the Montgomery city commission about their positions on bus seating policies, local black representation, and other issues concerning blacks in the upcoming election. March, Black leaders in Montgomery, Alabama, including E.D. Nixon, Rufus Lewis, Jo Ann Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., meet with Montgomery city commissioners and bus officials to negotiate seating arrangements on city buses. March 2, High School student Claudette Colvin is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. April 3, The city commission denies the MIA’s request to operate an “AllNegro” bus line citing that Montgomery City Lines is adequately serving the entire city and has 45–50 empty buses ready for use. July 14, U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rules that intrastate bus segregation is unconstitutional in Flemming v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company. October 21, Mary Louise Smith, 18, is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. December 1, Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and charged with violating bus segregation laws. December 2, The WPC begins implementation of a one-day bus boycott in Montgomery to protest Parks’ arrest, as well as treatment of all blacks on the city’s bus system. To promote the pending boycott, the WPC distributes flyers throughout Montgomery. Local black leaders meet to endorse the bus boycott. December 3, Promotion of the boycott continues throughout Montgomery. December 4, Sermons in black churches focus on observance of the bus boycott. December 5, Montgomery bus boycott begins as a huge success; Rosa Parks’ trial is held, and she is convicted and fined. An afternoon meeting


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of Montgomery black leadership establishes the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) to coordinate the boycott called by the WPC. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is elected MIA president. In the evening, several thousand from the black community rally at Holt Street Baptist Church. Those assembled celebrate the victory of the one-day boycott and unite to continue the bus boycott until city bus officials meet their demands of better treatment. December 8, Leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) meet with city and bus company officials to negotiate more equitable treatment of blacks on the city buses. December 13, The MIA develops a car pool system for transporting black citizens around Montgomery. Private carpooling begins. December 19, An effort at negotiations is made again, but talks deadlock. December 25, The MIA places an advertisement in the local paper explaining the purpose of the organization and the position it had taken in the boycott. 1956 January 6, At a White Citizens Council mass meeting it is announced that Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers has joined the organization. January 9, The last meeting for negotiations between members of the MIA and city council members is held. January 18, Montgomery City Commissioners Clyde Sellers and Frank Parks, and Mayor W.A. Gayle announce that they have joined the White Citizens Council. City commissioners announce a new “get tough” policy toward the black boycott. City police begin intimidating MIA car pool drivers. January 21, Montgomery city commissioners incorrectly announce the end of the boycott in local papers, hoping a public announcement will break the boycott. The incident stimulates boycott morale and the boycott continues. January 23, Montgomery Mayor W.A. Gayle announces that he is fed up with biracial negotiations and tells white citizens to quit supporting the “Negroes” in secret. January 24, Mayor W.A. Gayle and Commissioner Frank Parks join the White Citizens Council. January 25, Martin Luther King Jr. is arrested for speeding and put in jail for the first time. January 27, King becomes disheartened after receiving threatening phone calls, yet in private prayer he is convicted to fight on for justice and righteousness.

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January 30, To facilitate change among Montgomery leaders, the MIA board decides to challenge the constitutionality of Montgomery’s segregated bus system with a lawsuit. Tensions heighten when King’s house is bombed. February 1, Fred Gray and Charles Langford file a federal court lawsuit, Browder vs. Gayle on behalf of four females to challenge the constitutionality of Montgomery’s segregated bus system. E.D. Nixon’s home is bombed. February 2, King and four other MIA leaders meet with Alabama Governor James E. Folsom, seeking his help in protecting black citizens in Montgomery from the violence emerging out of the boycott. February 10, More than ten thousand whites rally in Montgomery at a White Citizens Council meeting to resist bus desegregation. February 20, Another attempt at a negotiation was made between the MIA and city commissioners. Leaders of the MIA deliver the city’s new proposal to the weekly mass meeting. Boycotters vote unanimously to reject the proposal by a white civic group in Montgomery and continue their protest. February 21, Montgomery officials indict eighty-nine bus boycott leaders for violating an Alabama statute barring boycotts without “just cause.” Black leaders voluntarily turn themselves in to local police. February 24, Boycott leaders are arraigned in Montgomery Circuit Court, but plead not guilty. March 6, Alabama state legislators introduce strict racial segregation bills, including one to strengthen bus segregation. March 19, King is the first leader to face his trial for organizing a boycott. After a three-day trial, he is found guilty for violating the boycott statute. King is fined $500, and another $500 in court costs, and sentenced to 386 days in jail. The MIA files an appeal to the conviction so the other 114 “boycott” indictments remain untried, pending the outcome of King’s appeal. The national news media belittles this behavior of white Montgomery leadership toward the black boycott leaders. April 23, The Supreme Court dismisses an appeal in Flemming v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company outlawing bus segregation in South Carolina. This decision encourages the Montgomery bus company to implement desegregation as a goal of the boycott. April 24, Bus companies in thirteen Southern cities end segregated seating based on the Flemming v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company decision, but Mayor W.A. Gayle announces that city bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, will continue. May 11, Federal court hearings for the four Montgomery women challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation laws begins (Browder v. Gayle).


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Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, and others testify before Judge Richard Rives, Judge Frank Johnson Jr., and Judge Seybourn H. Lynne. May 12, The Fellowship of Reconciliation holds a conference of civil rights leaders in Atlanta. King and Abernathy attend. June 1, The NAACP is banned from operating in Alabama by the Alabama State Legislature. June 4, In response to Browder v. Gayle, Montgomery Federal Court Judges Richard T. Rives and Frank M. Johnson Jr. rule Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws are unconstitutional by a 2-to-1 vote. White city officials appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. June 11, U.J. Fields resigns as MIA secretary and charges fellow leaders with misuse of funds. King returns from California to manage this crisis. June 19, The federal judges in Montgomery issue a permanent injunction against segregation on Montgomery buses. June 28, In spite of the June 5 ruling against bus segregation, boycott conditions remain the same while an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court. July 20, King’s lawyers submit an appeal of the March 22 boycott conspiracy conviction to the Alabama Court of Appeals. August 11, King testifies in favor of a strong civil rights policy to the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The committee approves a weaker stance. August 25, Rev. Robert Graetz’s home, the parsonage of Trinity Lutheran, is bombed. September 15, Lloyds of London provides liability insurance when local insurance agents are pressured by the White Citizens Council to cancel coverage for volunteer drivers and church vehicles. October 30, City official sought to halt the boycott’s operation of car pools on the grounds that car pool operations had cost the city an estimated $15,000 in lost revenue. November 13, King, Nixon, and Abernathy sit through the first day’s proceedings of the car pool injunction. During the trial it is circulated that the United States Supreme Court has affirmed the decision of the district court in the Montgomery case, which declared Alabama’s state and local laws of segregation on buses unconstitutional. Ku Klux Klan members drive through Montgomery black neighborhoods to harass residents. November 14, At the weekly mass meeting of MIA, boycotters vote to continue walking until the official United States Supreme Court’s decision is implemented. To manage the delay and keep buses empty for the interim, Reverend S.S. Seay coordinates a “Share-a-Ride” plan for each neighborhood and street so car owners will share rides with neighbors and friends.

Primary Documents


December 3, The Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change, a weeklong celebration of the one-year anniversary of the boycott, hosts seminars on nonviolent behavior. Guest speakers, seminars, workshops, and worship services are featured. December 17, The U.S. Supreme Court rejects the Montgomery city commission’s final appeal of the Browder v. Gayle decision. December 20, the United States Supreme Court’s writs of injunction in Gayle v. Browder, 352 U.S. 903; (1956) are delivered to Montgomery City Hall and the Alabama Public Service Commission. December 21, Black citizens desegregate Montgomery buses after a thirteen-month boycott. News media swarm the area for photo opportunities to record the end of the bus boycott. December 23, Shotguns fire upon Dexter Avenue parsonage. December 28, Buses are fired upon by snipers. A pregnant woman, Rosa Jordan, is shot in both legs. December 29, Evening bus service is suspended by city commissioners in response to the shootings. 1957 January 7, MIA leaders are asked to gather in Atlanta with other national leaders to discuss and form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to address national civil rights issues. January 10, Four churches and two homes in the black community are bombed. Sixty national leaders meet at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. January 11, Southern leaders at the SCLC conference issue a statement condemning violence and sent telegrams to the president, vice president, and attorney general. January 27, Two bombs go off in the black community and a third is planted but fails to explode at the Dexter Avenue parsonage. January 30, Ku Klux Klan members are arrested for bus shootings. Late January, A group of white businessmen meet in Montgomery, outlining plans to start the Rebel Club, a private white organization to purchase buses and allow only members to ride. Late January, King and Abernathy join in the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC ) to coordinate civil rights protest movements around the South. February 14, King is elected president of the SCLC as it forms into a permanent civil rights organization. February 18, King is featured in Time magazine for his leadership of the bus boycott.

GLOSSARY 13th Amendment—Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 14th Amendment—Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Ralph Abernathy—Pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, civil rights leader, aide and comrade to Martin Luther King, helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, worked with King to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was created to organize nonviolent protest. Joe Azbell—City Editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. J. H. Bagley—Manager of the Montgomery City Lines. James Blake—The bus driver who had Parks arrested, and refused to comment on the arrest until his death. Aurelia S. Browder—Lead plaintiff of four women in the MIA’s federal court suit seeking desegregation of the Montgomery buses. The decision of the Supreme Court in this case ultimately ended the bus boycott and integrated Montgomery buses.



Boycott—To abstain from, or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion. Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas—A 1954 U.S. Supreme court ruling that concluded “separate but equal” had no place in education. This decision mandated the desegregation of American schools. Eugene Carter—Judge who presided over the grand jury investigation of the MIA and the trial of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., accusing him of being a boycott organizer. Claudette Colvin—Fifteen-year-old girl, who was the first person arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person and plead not guilty. Her arrest stimulated black protests regarding discrimination on Montgomery buses, which helped to fuel the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Jack Crenshaw—Attorney for the Montgomery City Lines. Crenshaw was very involved in the white hard-lined stance against black boycotters. Erna Dungee—Financial secretary of the MIA. Clifford Durr—White liberal lawyer, appointee of the FCC by Roosevelt. Durr was a very helpful behind-the-scenes mentor to many black leaders during the boycott. Sam Engelhardt—Alabama state senator and organizer of the White Citizens Council to preserve racial segregation. Uriah Fields—Pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church and the first secretary of the MIA. W. A. Gayle—Mayor of Montgomery 1951–1959. Robert S. Graetz—Young white pastor of a black congregation in Montgomery. Graetz actively supported the boycott from its inception. He and his family suffered much harassment as a result. Fred Gray—Lawyer, protégé of Clifford Durr. Colvin and Smith were his clients. Gray was active legal council during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Hazel Gregory—MIA office secretary. Grover Hall Jr.—Editor of the Montgomery Adviser. Jim Crow Laws—Jim Crow was a popular character of the traveling minstrel shows in nineteenth-century America who made fun of the blacks. The Jim Crow image became a stereotype of black inferiority and a racial slur for blacks in a white-dominated American society. Jim Crow laws were formed to keep blacks and whites separated in public places. Vernon Johns—Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church before Martin Luther King Jr. Martha Johnson—Secretary and clerk at the MIA. Tom Johnson—Montgomery Advertiser reporter assigned to cover the bus boycott. Coretta Scott King—Wife of Martin Luther King Jr.



Martin Luther King Jr.—Pastor whose eloquence and commitment to nonviolent tactics formed the successful implementation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King was the mouthpiece for the Montgomery movement, which fueled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Among the many peaceful demonstrations he led was the 1963 March on Washington, at which he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, four years before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. Ku Klux Klan (KKK)—A secret society organized in the South after the Civil War to reassert white supremacy over blacks by means of terrorism. C. W. Lee—Assistant treasurer for the MIA. Rufus A. Lewis—President of the Citizens’ Steering Committee and the one who nominated Martin Luther King as president of the MIA. Lewis spearheaded the transportation committee and car pool schedules for the MIA during the bus boycott. Men of Montgomery—The group of white businessmen formed because they were losing business in downtown Montgomery during the boycott. Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—Founded in Montgomery in December 1955 by Montgomery ministers and community leaders to organize and coordinate the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Juliette Morgan—White librarian who publicly supported the bus boycott. Mother Pollard—Old black woman during the movement who supported and inspired King and other leaders by her unyielding faith in God and justice. Municipal Code—State of local collection of laws. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—A civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the United States. E. D. Nixon—Pullman train porter. Founder of the Montgomery Voters League in 1943. Tried to advocate and promote black voting rights. Later became president of the Montgomery NAACP in 1946 through 1950. Active in the formation and implementation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks—Well-respected seamstress at Montgomery Fair department store whose arrest sparked the yearlong bus boycott of blacks in Montgomery. Parks became the icon of the bus boycott. Additionally, Parks served as secretary of the NAACP and a member of the Women’s Political Council in Montgomery. Plessy v. Ferguson—The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1896 that a Louisiana law mandating “separate but equal” accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in 1954 by Brown v. Board of Education. A. Philip Randolph—A labor leader and organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, he opposed discrimination also in the armed forces, and in 1955 he became a member of the AFL-CIO executive council. He was also an organizer of the August 1963 March on Washington.



Jo Ann Robinson—An English professor at Alabama State College. She was the head of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), active in registering blacks to vote. She was part of the Executive Leadership of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was successful in organizing and leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Bayard Rustin—Pacifist from New York, championed the Gandhian method. Clyde Sellers—Police commissioner of Montgomery during the boycott. Sellers is known for his resistance to compromise during the boycott. Glen Smiley—White minister from Texas who advocated nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement and taught Gandhian principles along with Martin Luther King Jr. Mary Louise Smith—An eighteen-year-old woman who was arrested on October 21, 1955, for refusing to move out of her seat for a white woman. Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)—Founded in 1957 by Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and other national civil rights leaders to continue the momentum built for civil rights during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The SCLC wanted to encourage the use of nonviolent protest, by organizing marches, demonstrations, and boycotts around the country. White Citizens’ Council—An organization formed to maintain segregation in the South. Membership soared from eight hundred to seventy-five thousand during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Women’s Political Committee (WPC)—Grassroots political organization that promoted social justice and women’s rights in Montgomery. The WPC was an integral part of the bus boycott, and was actually the group that initially called for and organized a boycott after Parks’ arrest. The WPC was the behind-the-scenes manpower that kept the boycott organized and operating.

BIBLIOGRAPHY BOYCOTT AND THE MEDIA Roberts, Gene. The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2006.

Roberts examines how news stories, editorials, and photographs in the American press profoundly changed the nation’s thinking about civil rights in the South during the 1950s and 1960s.

CIVIL RIGHTS Abernathy, Donzaleigh. Partners to History. New York: Crown, 2003.

In this large-format book, the daughter of prominent civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy gives an insider’s view of the Civil Rights Movement, juxtaposing family remembrances with history and speeches by her father and his friend and close collaborator, Martin Luther King Jr. She also pays tribute to the thousands of unsung heroes—the other partners to this history—who were foot soldiers in the endless struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. This book captures in words and pictures how the dream of two visionaries changed the course of American history and inspired the world.



Abernathy, Ralph. And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Abernathy’s autobiographical account documenting the birth and struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. Along with his colleague and friend, Martin Luther King Jr., Abernathy helped organize the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1965 march in Selma. Adams, Frank, with Myles Horton. Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander. North Carolina: Blair, 1975.

A history of the Highlander Folk School of Ozone, Tennessee, of its founder Myles Horton, and of its efforts in teaching adults how to advance the causes of labor organizing civil rights, and antipoverty programs. Anderson, Jervis. A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait. New York: Berkeley, 1986.

This work is a journalistic insight on Randolph’s meteoric rise from a young radical and street orator in Harlem to the most sought-after black in the labor movement. His influence encouraged E.D. Nixon and many others to facilitate change in thought, trickling down into a change in American culture. Blake, John. Children of the Movement. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2004.

Blake interviews sons and daughters of civil rights champions to reveal how the Civil Rights Movement tested and transformed their families. Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963. New York: Touchtone, 1988.

Branch’s narrative mingles biography and history while covering King and the Civil Rights Movement through the 1963 Kennedy assassination in great detail. With a portrait of King’s rise to greatness and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder. Brooks, Thomas R. The Walls Came Tumbling Down: A History of the Civil Rights Movement. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Brooks cites the key leaders, issues, and problems of the Civil Rights Movement in America as it evolved over a thirty-year period. Daniels, Pearl Gray. Portrait of Fred Gray: Minister, Civil Rights Lawyer and Alabama Representative. New York: Vantage Press, 1975.

A biography on the attorney who fought for the blacks of Montgomery during the bus boycott and went on to champion civil rights causes through the legal system.



Davis, Townsend. Weary Feet, Rested Soul: A Guided History of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: WW Norton & Company, 1951.

This guide takes readers to Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood neighborhood, along the path of the Freedom Riders to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered, to the route of the triumphant march from Selma to Montgomery, and to hundreds of other sites, many well off the beaten track. Accounts of these historic places also include the words of many who lived through those times and contain a completely up-to-date description of new monuments and museums commemorating the movement and its heroes. Durr, Virginia Foster. Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr Letters from the Civil Rights Years. Alabama: Routlege, 2003.

Virginia Foster Durr was a monumental champion for civil rights. A white Southerner who returned to Alabama in 1951 after twenty years in Washington, she was horrified to revisit the racism of her childhood. Her letters offer a glimpse into the day-to-day battles for racial justice at a pivotal moment in American history. Gray, Fred. Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred Gray. Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1995.

One of two black lawyers in Montgomery when the bus boycott began, Gray’s autobiography details his life as a civil rights lawyer beginning with the boycott story. Graetz, Robert. A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation. Alabama: New South Books, 2006.

Thrust into a second American Revolution, Bob Graetz had already studied and thought deeply about race and religion and about racial discrimination in America. Bob and Jeannie were among the few whites who supported the first broad-based civil rights protest of the twentieth century. White thugs retaliated by bombing the Graetzes’ home twice; their lives were threatened often. But Graetz never wavered, and his Montgomery experiences, recounted in detail here, shaped a long ministerial career that always emphasized equality and justice issues no matter where his call took him. In addition to Graetz’s boycott memoirs, this book includes provocative chapters on white privilege, black forgiveness, and the present-day challenges for human and civil rights, including for gays and lesbians. Grossman, Mark. The ABC-CLIO Companion to the Civil Rights Movement. United Kingdom: ABC-CLIO, 1993.

Grossman traces the struggle of black Americans against oppression, racism, and bigotry in the United States. This expansive, one-volume



encyclopedia is designed as an easy-to-use reference tool for the general reader. The concise entries cover key events, landmark state and federal legislation, important concepts, civil rights leaders, and stubborn obstacles in the way of freedom. Morris, Alden D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. Michigan: Collier Macmillan, 1984.

Alden Morris offers research and interviews with many of the figures who launched the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s and records the events of the movement’s tumultuous first decade. Morris also explores the history of the movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and developments leading to the civil rights era. Patterson, Charles. The Civil Rights Movement. New York: Facts on File, 1995.

Patterson’s account begins with a discussion of the legacy of slavery, putting into perspective the denial of basic human rights to African Americans. He follows the course of the Civil Rights Movement into the early 1970s, focusing on key turning points: school desegregation court cases, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, student sit-ins and freedom rides, the March on Washington, voter registration drives, and the march from Selma to Montgomery that culminated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Patterson examines the shift in civil rights groups’ methods, goals, and leadership— from nonviolent integration to black power, from desegregation and voters’ rights to jobs, housing, and poverty, and from the NAACP to the Black Panthers. Raines, Howell. My South is Rested. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1977.

Interviews with men and women, both black and white, who participated in various ways in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s provide a firsthand history of the movement, its leaders, supporters, and opponents, and its accomplishments. Rediger, Pat. Great African Americans in Civil Rights. New York: Crabtree Publishing, 1995.

One of twelve books that offer up-to-date biographical accounts of notable African American men and women and their contributions to our culture. This volume includes: Ralph David Abernathy, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Thurgood Marshall, plus six additional shorter profiles. Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to Freedom: Young People who Fought for Civil Rights. New York: Lodestar Books. 1993.

A look at some of the young people who made a difference in African Americans’ struggle for civil rights.



Rutland, Eva. When We Were Colored. Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1964.

Rutland relates her story as a black mother in the pre civil rights days of legal segregation, giving excellent background information of how blacks were treated before the protests and legal battles of the 1950s. Schraff, Anne E. Coretta Scott King: Striving for Civil Rights. New Jersey: Enslow Publishing, 1999.

Schraff explores the life and career of Coretta Scott King, from her childhood in Alabama, through her work with the Civil Rights Movement, and then her continued efforts on behalf of the underprivileged following her husband, Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Williams, Juan. My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience. New York: Sterling Press, 2004.

Williams presents the dramatic and uplifting stories of men and women who have been profoundly transformed by their experiences on the front lines of freedom. His eyewitness accounts narrate the stories of people who played active roles in the Civil Rights Movement. These narratives showcase stories of personal transformation that bring the Civil Rights Movement alive. Winter, Paul. The Civil Rights Movement. California: Greenhaven Press, 2000.

An anthology of twenty-three essays that examine the events, leaders, and cultural forces that transformed American society through the Civil Rights Movement. These writings describe how the movement began, its nonviolent and militant tactics, and changes in the political arena. This collection of essays provides a lengthy overview and detailed analysis of the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s: the main events, the role of the leaders, the crucial debates about nonviolence, and the struggle. CORETTA SCOTT KING Mederis, Angela Shief. Dare to Dream: Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Lodestar Books, 1994.

This biography of Coretta Scott King tells how she joined her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to lead protest marches and stand up to prejudice and violence. This biography shows her to be a courageous woman who can stand on her own merit, and not just as the wife of one of the world’s most well-known men. COURT CASES AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM Carson, Clayborne. The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Civil Rights Reader. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

An examination of the Civil Rights Movement.



Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Klarman’s book is an investigation of the Supreme Court’s rulings on race, from Jim Crow to civil rights. Klarman spells out in detail the political and social context within which the Supreme Court justices operate and the consequences of their decisions for American race relations. Katznelson, Ira. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.

Katznelson offers a reexamination of the history of affirmative action in the United States. Sikora, Frank. The Judge: The Life & Opinions of Alabama’s Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Montgomery: Black Belt Press, 1992.

The decisions of Frank M. Johnson Jr., a federal judge in Montgomery, shaped the Civil Rights Movement from the bus boycott of 1955 to the Selma March of 1965, and desegregated schools, colleges, police forces, state employment, and other Southern institutions. Tresolini, Rocco. These Liberties: Case Studies in Civil Rights. Penn: Lippincott, 1968.

A study of several of the early legal battles fighting for civil rights. FREEDOM AND RELIGION Harvey, Paul. Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era. North Carolina: UNC Press, 2005.

An analysis of how religion has affected our American culture. Harvey explains how black and white religious folk within and outside of mainstream religious groups formed a southern “evangelical counterculture” of Christian inter-racialism. Harvey explores how religion was used to challenge the theologically grounded racism pervasive among white Southerners and was ultimately used to help end Jim Crow in the South. JIM CROW AND THE SOUTH Chappell, David L. A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

This book explores the role that religion played in shaping the abolition of Jim Crow in the South. The civil rights struggle had many of the elements of revival—miracle stories, mass religious enthusiasm, music, “conversion” experiences, even messianic expectations. Chappell writes



engagingly, drawing an important portrait of the crucial role religion played in defeating Jim Crow. George, Charles. Life Under the Jim Crow Laws. California: Lucent, 2000.

George documents racial segregation in the South in an enlightening discussion of racial segregation and the ways in which whites in this country contrived to keep African Americans at a subservient level. The origin of the term is explained along with a discussion of Plessy v. Ferguson. Other chapters describe daily life, schools, jobs, and the lack of civil rights under these repressive laws. The final chapter covers the Civil Rights Movement. The text concludes with a statement that acknowledges that racial understanding is a never-ending process. Irons, Peter. Jim Crow’s Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision. New York: Viking, 2002.

Irons supplies examples of how slave literacy was clearly connected to slave revolts and other demands for freedom. He looks in detail at how the politics of nominating Supreme Court justices have affected the ongoing battle for desegregation; he also provides a detailed analysis of how, in 1948, Thurgood Marshall worked to secure legal access for African Americans to graduate schools in states that bordered the South, then built upon those decisions toward Brown. He takes the reader on an enlightening journey through the preconditions of segregation from slavery through the Civil War on into the so-called Jim Crow era, when the South sought to reimpose its cultural dominance on racial issues. Irons examines the Supreme Court ruling and its cultural context—including jurist personalities and interests leading up to and subsequent to the Brown decision. Litwack, Leon. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. New York: Knopf, 1998.

Trouble in Mind offers great background leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. The author traces the often excruciating lives of newly freed slaves in the South after the Civil War, when lynch mobs roamed the land. Williamson Joel. The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

A University of North Carolina historian, Williamson explains Southern race relations from before the Emancipation through the civil rights era. Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board



of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King Jr. called it “the historical Bible of the Civil Rights Movement.” The book offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws, presenting evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1890s. Woodward convincingly shows that, even under slavery, the two races had not been divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s. MARTIN LUTHER KING Bass, Jonathan S. Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a widely read modern literary classic. Personally addressed to eight white Birmingham clergymen who sought to avoid violence by publicly discouraging King’s civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, the nationally published “Letter” captures the essence of the struggle for racial equality and provided a blistering critique of the gradualist approach to racial justice. Jonathan Bass offers an explanation to King’s work. Clayborne, Carson. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Warner Books, 1998.

Written in his own words, this work written by King and edited by Clayborne gives insight into the life and ministry of Martin Luther King Jr. This work brings to life King’s thoughts and actions during the Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as other times of his life. King, Corretta Scott. My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Puffin Books, 1994.

A personal, inspirational account of the history of the Civil Rights Movement including the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King describes the author’s relationship with Martin Luther King Jr., detailing their marriage, the events of the 1960s, and King’s tragic assassination. Martin Luther King, Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, Penny A. Russell. The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. California: University of California Press, 1992.

This work begins with King’s doctoral work at Boston University and ends with his first year as pastor of the historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It includes papers from his graduate courses and a fully annotated text of his dissertation. There is correspondence with people King knew in his years before graduate school and a transcription of the first known recording of a King sermon. We learn, too, of King’s marriage to Coretta Scott. Accepting the call to serve Dexter,



King followed the church’s tradition of socially active pastors by becoming involved in voter registration and other issues of social justice. In Montgomery he completed his doctoral work, and he and Coretta Scott began their married life. King’s early papers document the formative experiences of a man whose life and teachings have had a profound influence not only on Americans, but on people of all nations. Reddick, L.D. Crusader Without Violence. New York: Harper, 1959.

A biography of Martin Luther King Jr. MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT Baldwin, Lewis V., & Woodson, Aprille V. Freedom Is Never Free: A Biographical Portrait of E.D. Nixon. Tennessee: Tennessee State University, 1992.

A biography of E.D. Nixon, founder of the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association in Montgomery, Alabama. The manuscript includes Nixon’s work to establish and carry out the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Burns, Stuart. Daybreak of Freedom. North Carolina: UNC Press, 1997.

Daybreak of Freedom reverberates with the voices of those closest to the bus boycott, ranging from King and his inner circle, to Jo Ann Robinson and other women leaders who started the protest, to the maids and cooks who carried out the struggle. Burns weaves their testimony into a story that shows how events in Montgomery pushed the entire nation to keep faith with its stated principles. Crewe, Sabrina. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Wisconsin: Garth Stevens, 2003.

Crewe tells the story of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, looking at the event’s background and also at the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as a whole. She introduces the leading figures of that movement and provides details about the planning and events of this time. Additionally, Crewe explains the changes that have come about in U.S. society as a result of African Americans’ struggle for equality. Dornfeld, Margaret. The Turning Tide, 1948–1956. In Desegregation of American Forces to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Pennsylvania: Chelsea House, 1995.

Part of the Milestones in Black American History series, this is a coherent, matter-of-fact text that tells the story of the American Civil Rights Movement and relates significant events in African American history from 1948 to 1956. Although this work is written for the younger reader, many of the details of this account are unique.



Field, Uriah J. The Montgomery Story: The Unhappy Effects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. New York: Exposition Press, 1959.

A report of the Montgomery Bus Boycott from the treasurer of the Montgomery Improvement Association. Freedman, Russell. Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. New York: Holiday House, 2006.

Freedman documents the life of the key personalities and events that contributed to the yearlong struggle in Montgomery. Text is illustrated with powerful black and white photos. Although geared to younger readers, Freedman details areas many authors omit. Flynt, Wayne. Montgomery: An Illustrated History. California: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1980.

Published by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce as a photo documentary. Gray, Fred. The Children Coming On . . . A Retrospective of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1998.

Gray’s unique Children Coming On incorporates various essays, interviews, oral histories of the participants, court documents, newsclippings, and other published works on the boycott. Graetz, Robert. A White Preacher’s Story: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Alabama: Black Belt Press, 1999.

In 1955, Graetz was a young white minister sent to pastor an all-black church in Alabama. When the famous bus boycott began, he was the only white preacher supporting it. His home was bombed, he and his family were threatened, but he stayed the course. This is his story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Hare, Kenneth, and Jim Earnhardt. They Walked to Freedom. Illinois: Spotlight Press, 2005.

Authored by the editor of the Advertiser’s editorial page, They Walked to Freedom tells the Montgomery story with vintage photos from the newspaper. Kelso, Richard. Walking for Freedom. New York: Raintree-Steck-Vaugh Publishers, 1993.

Four collections of books explore famous men and women who joined forces to make a difference, conquered overwhelming obstacles, and bravely lived and suffered for their convictions. A broad representation of cultures, ethnic groups, and both genders make this series an excellent resource for multicultural studies.



King, Martin Luther Jr. Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York: Harper & Row, 1958.

It is both the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and an exegesis of the principles of nonviolent resistance, inherited by Gandhi from Tolstoy and acted on by Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and those who strode toward freedom with them. In this piece, King also speaks to the role of the Christian Church in establishing justice. Kohl, Herbert R. She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. New York: New Press, 2005.

An educator’s meditation on the misleading way generations of children have been taught the story of Rosa Parks. Kohl discusses how Rosa Parks was a trained civil rights leader, a respected member of the community, and a middle-class mother and wife, who risked her life to confront racism. He comments that, “We can’t teach about the Civil Rights Movement if we can’t talk about white racism.” This book provides some constructive models for how to do that. Loiner, Lottie L. The New Crisis. Crisis Publishing Co., Jul/Aug 2003.

New Crisis is a bimonthly periodical published by the NAACP. In this volume news writer and senior editor of the New Crisis Lottie Loiner revisits the bus boycott. Martin, John Bartlow. The Deep South Says Never. New York: Ballantine Books, 1957.

Martin, a writer for the Saturday Evening Post, published his research on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His work includes interviews and background information on the bus boycott. Robinette, Harrette Gilliam. Walking to the Bus Rider Blues. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Young adult fictional account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which personalizes this African American struggle in America. Stein, R. Conrad. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1993.

A visual record that allows the reader to be a witness to history and the famous people who helped shape the boycott. Photographs and historical engravings document the boycott. Williams, Donnie, and Wayne Greenhaw. Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2004.



The heroism of those involved in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott is presented here in poignant and thorough detail. Untold stories are shared of those, both black and white, whose lives were forever changed by the boycott. A thorough explanation is given into the world of the white council members who tried to stop them. In the end, the boycott brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence and improved the lives of all black Americans. Based on extensive interviews conducted over decades and culled from thousands of exclusive documents, this behindthe-scenes examination details the history of violence and abuse on the city buses. A look at Martin Luther King Jr.’s trial, an examination of how black and white lawyers worked together to overturn segregation in the courtroom, and even firsthand accounts from the segregationists who bombed the homes of some of Montgomery’s most progressive ministers are included. This fast-moving story reads like a legal thriller but is based solely on documented facts and firsthand accounts, presenting the compelling and never-before-told stories of the beginning of the end of segregation. Wright Roberta Hughes. The Birth of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Michigan: Charro Press, 1991.

Wright traces the events in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which began in December 1955 and changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement. E. D. NIXON Pollard, Freeman W. E.D. Nixon: The Life of a Resourceful Activist. North Carolina: John Blair, 2002.

Biography on the contributions of E.D. Nixon to the Civil Rights Movement. ROSA PARKS Dove, Rita. On the Bus with Rosa Parks: Poems. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

The women in Dove’s poems bear up almost miraculously under their extraordinary burdens of Rosa Parks, who did what she had to on the bus in 1955 and who, from that point on, bore the burden of public life for the public good. SPEECHES Hudson, Wade. Powerful Words. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2004.



Powerful Words is a collection of writings (letters, speeches, poetry, novels, songs, and more) by famous African Americans with thoughtful commentary on the authors, as well as the impact the writings have had on society. Benjamin Banneker. Dred Scott. Ida B. Wells Barnett. Marcus Garvey. Langston Hughes. Rosa Parks. Malcolm X. Toni Morrison. Lauryn Hill. These and many more are the people who have helped shape African American culture throughout history. Safire, William, ed. Lend Me your Ears: Great Speeches in History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.

Political columnist and former White House speechwriter, William Safire, gathers more than two hundred great speeches from history. Arranged by theme and occasion, and each speech is expertly introduced by the editor, who places the speech’s occasion in historical context. Washington, James Melvin. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Washington explores how King used words to define a movement. From a place situated between two cultures of American society, King was the Civil Rights Movement’s most visible figure, he was its voice, and he used it to shape the movement and its destiny. Washington records all his major speeches in this account.

WOMEN AND CIVIL RIGHTS Allen, Zita. Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. London: Franklin Watts, 1996.

Allen’s work focuses on the entire Civil Rights Movement, from 1900–1964. Allen includes lawyers, teachers, college professors, sharecroppers, students, and domestics who participated in the desegregation of high schools, universities, buses, lunch counters, and other public facilities, and whose stories have been overshadowed by the contributions of men. Crawford, Vicki, Jacqueline Rouse, and Barbara Woods. Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941–1965 (Blacks in the Diaspora). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

This work recognizes the contributions of black women in the Civil Rights Movement. The essays presented here range from studies of individual women to studies of the school and housing integration fight, organizers in the Mississippi Delta, and the Highlander Folk School. Olson, Lynne. Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830–1970. New York: Scribner, 2004.



Olson gives a comprehensive history of the role of women in the Civil Rights Movement. Freedom’s Daughters fills a startling gap in both the literature of civil rights and of women’s history. Highlighting the bold women who were crucial to the movement’s success and who refused to give up the fight, Olson begins with the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides. She reminds us that the story of women fighting for civil rights began much earlier than the 1950s and 1960s. Olson says Parks became a shining example of the role of women in the Civil Rights Movement and focuses on how women got things started and kept things running behind the scenes while men took the spotlight. Parks, Rosa. Quiet Strength: The Faith, Hope and Love of a Woman Who Changed a Nation. Michigan: Zondervan, 1994.

Parks along with author Gregory J. Reed gives the account of her infamous stand against injustice as well as the lasting impact it made. Robinet, Belinda. How Long? How Long?: African-American Women in the Struggle for Civil Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Drawing heavily on interviews with actual participants in the American Civil Rights Movement, this work retells the movement as seen through the eyes and spoken through the voices of African American women participants. Robinson, Jo Ann. Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

Robinson explains how she and the Women’s Political Council started the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1954. This exposé is full of boycott details and personal examples of how the women lead behind the scenes of a movement that energized the civil rights era. INTERNET SOURCES

A brief overview of the highlights of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

A thorough site for details on the boycott.

A resource about the movement. Several images of actual narratives of the movement. View articles from the actual Montgomery paper and much more.

INDEX Note: The letter f following a page number refers an illustration on the indicated page. Abernathy, Rev. Ralph D. arrest of, 50f, 52f and bus boycott leadership, 24, 25 and bus boycott’s success, 86 as encourager, 64 indictment of, 48 and King, Rev. Martin Luther, Jr., 18, 20, 53f, 85f and MIA demands, 36, 48 and nonviolence drills after boycott, 78 and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), 84 Adair, Euretta, 37 Arrests of boycotters, 48, 49f, 51–52 trials following, 53–55 Arrests of leaders during boycott, 48–51, 50f Arrests of ministers, 48, 51 Atlanta, Georgia, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 28, 81 Azbell, Joe, 18, 48, 51

Bagley, J. H., 39, 54 Ballou, Maude, 37 Baton Rouge bus boycott, 23 Black bus drivers, demand for, 39, 40, 41 Black citizens’ incomes, Montgomery, 3 Black Codes, 1 Black employment, Montgomery, 3 and fear of supporting bus boycott, 8 Black women’s role in boycott, 63, 64–65. See also under individual names Blake, J. P. (James), 13 Boston University, 28 Boycott, national news coverage of, 37, 42, 51–52. See also Bus boycott, day one; Bus boycott, extended thirteen months; Bus boycott, finished Bricklayers Union building, 37 Brooks, Sadie, 54


Brooks, Thomas, 43 Browder, Aurelia, 65, 68 Browder v. Gayle, 65, 67–70 Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas, 12, 68 Brownell, Herbert, 61 Bus boycott, Baton Rouge, 23 Bus boycott, day one alternative transportation used, 22 car pools for, 19 empty bus, 22f mass meeting to review, 19, 23–25, 33–36 organizing, 18–20 and Parks, Rosa, court case of, 21f participation in, 21–22 plan for, 16 police response to, 20, 22, 23 publicity for, 17, 19, 20 Bus boycott, economic impact of, 58, 63 Bus boycott, extended thirteen months alternative transportation during, 36, 42–43, 44 decision to continue, 34, 36 economic impact of, 58 financial support of, 37 mass arrests for conspiracy, 48, 51 negotiations during, 39–42 problems created by, 36 reasons for continuing, 41–42 trials following mass arrests, 53–55 and violence, 46, 47–48, 70 white citizens’ response to, 47, 57–62 white citizens’ support of, 60–61 white women’s support of, 60 Bus boycott, finished car pools made illegal, 74 court ruling, Browder v. Gayle, 69 legacy of, 83–87 after U.S. Supreme Court order, 79–80 violence in aftermath, 80–81 Bus boycott, reasons for success, 83–84 Bus boycott, scam about end to, 43–44


Bus drivers, demand for black, 39, 40, 41 Bus seat integration first day of, 80 preparation for, 78–79 Bus seat segregation, 2–5 bus drivers’ cruelty, 4, 41, 54–55 Colvin, Claudette, arrest of, 5–6 constitutionality of, 65, 67–70, 72 and MIA demands, 36 outlawed by Fourteenth Amendment, 5 seating rules, 4 Smith, Mary Louise, 9 and the WPC, 8 Bus system reform, requests, 36, 39–41 Carter, Charles, 68 Carter, Eugene, 8 Church and nonviolence training, 78 Church and the boycott, 17, 19, 36, 64, 83 Citizens Coordinating Committee, 54 Citizens Steering Committee, 18 Civil disobedience. See Nonviolence, doctrine of Civil Rights Memorial, 86f Civil Rights Movement, 84–87 Civil War, 1, 27, 86 Clergymen of Montgomery, 19, 20 Club from Nowhere, 37 Colvin, Claudette, 5–6, 7, 8, 54, 65 Conspiracy indictment of boycotters, leaders, and ministers, 48, 51 Conspiracy trial of boycotters, 53–55 Conspiracy trial of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 53–55 Constitutionality of segregated bus seating, 65, 67–70, 72 Cooksy, Dealy, 61 Crenshaw, Jack, 39, 40, 44 Crozer Theological Seminary, 29 Daniels, Fred, 36 Desegregation of buses. See Integrated bus seating Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 17–18, 27–29


Domestic workers bus system, use of, 4 and white employers, 60–61 Donations of money to boycott, 37, 42, 55 Dungee, Erna, 36, 54 Durr, Clifford, 7, 65 and Rosa Parks’ arrest, 15 and Rosa Parks’ court case, 23 Durr, Virginia, 12 Economic impact of bus boycott, 58, 63 Eisenhower, Dwight D., 55 Employment of blacks, Montgomery, 3 Engelhardt, Sam, 55, 57, 58, 75 Factions among black organizations, 45 Fields, Uriah, 45 Financial support of bus boycott, 37 Folsom, James, 59 Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, 2, 4–5 French, Edgar, 33 Friendly Club, 37 Gandhi, Mahatma, 29, 30 Gayle, W. A. (“Tacky”), 39, 40f, 54, 58 in Browder v. Gayle, 67, 69 Gilmore, Georgia, 37 Glass, Thelma, 54 Governor of Alabama, response to boycott, 59 Graetz, Rev. Robert S., 54, 61, 85f Gray, Fred, 7, 8, 16 and bus boycott’s success, 87 in Browder v. Gayle, 68 in court, 21f and MIA, 37 and MIA car pool ban injunction, 71–72 and Rosa Parks’ court case, 23 and trial of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 54 violence toward, 47 Greenhaw, Wayne, 52 Gregory, Hazel, 37


Hall, Grover C., Jr., 46, 51, 59 Hate literature of White Citizens Council, 59 Highland Folk School interracial workshop, 12–13 Holden, Anna, 41, 42 Holt Street Baptist Church, 19, 33, 35, 36 Hutchison, Joseph, 67 Incomes of blacks, Montgomery, 3 Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change, 77 Integrated bus seating first day of, 80 preparation for, 78 Integration of schools, 4–5, 12, 68 Jemison, T. J., 23 Jim Crow, 1, 3f, 5 Jim Crow laws, 1, 5, 35 end to, on buses, 79 Johnson, Frank M., Jr., 67 Johnson, Martha, 37 King, Coretta Scott, 29 King, Rev. Martin Luther, Jr., personal life ancestors of, 28, 30 and Atlanta, Georgia, 28, 81 character of, 30, 85–86 early years, 28–29 educational background, 28 father’s attitude toward segregation, 28 marriage of, 29 move to Montgomery, 28–30 name change of, 28 King, Rev. Martin Luther, Jr., public and political life and Abernathy, Rev. Ralph, 18, 20, 85f arrest of, 50f conflicts with NAACP, 45 conviction for conspiracy, 55 end of boycott speech, 79–80 first day of bus seat integration, 80


King, Rev. Martin Luther, Jr., public and political life (continued) first speech during boycott, 34–35, 35f and Graetz, Rev. Robert, 85f indictment of, 48, 51 meeting with Gov. James Folsom, 59 at MIA board meeting, 74f and MIA car pool case, 72 as MIA president, 24–25 NAACP involvement, 30, 45 negotiations with city and bus officials, 41–42 and nonviolence, 30, 34, 47, 64, 77–79 as a pastor, 27–28, 29–30 popularity following trial, 55 and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), 84 supporters, 71f after trial, 53f trial for conspiracy, 53–55 victory speech, 74 violence toward, 47, 80 Ku Klux Klan (KKK), 73f, 75 Langford, Charles, 68 Leaders of boycott. See also under names of leaders arrest of, 48, 51, 51f indictment of, 48, 49f, 50f, 51 MIA leaders, 37 MIA leadership conflicts, 45–46 surrender by, 48 trials of, 53 Lewis, Rufus, 24, 54 Literacy test for voting rights, 2 Lomax, Louis E., 30 Lynne, Seybourn, 67–69 Mahatma Gandhi, 29, 30 Matthews, R. L., 24 McDonald, Susie, 65, 68 McKay, Charles, 55 MIA. See Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)


MLK. See King, Martin Luther, Jr., personal life; King, Martin Luther, Jr., public and political life Mobile, Alabama, bus system, 39 Montgomery, Alabama black citizens’ incomes, 3 black community unity during boycott, 43 black employment in, 3 bus segregation, 2–5 bus segregation reform requests, 36, 39–41 city code, 14 clergymen of, 19, 20 as “Cradle of the Confederacy,” 27 discrimination practices, 2 economic effects of boycott, 63 literacy test for voting rights, 2 political system, 2 segregated public facilities, 2 Voter’s League of, 6–7 Montgomery bus boycott. See Bus boycott, day one; Bus boycott, extended thirteen months; Bus boycott, finished Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) alternative transportation options during boycott, 42–43, 44 car pools banned, 71–72 finances questioned, 54 formation of, 24–25 leadership conflicts, 45–46 leadership team, 37 and the NAACP, 45 newsletter as communication network, 36 public transportation demands, 36, 39–41, 44 purpose of, 33–34 selection of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of, 24 staff of, 36–37 Morehouse College, 28 Morgan, Juliette, 61 Mother Pollard, 65


NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), 4, 6, 11 investigation of, 70–71 and the MIA, 45 NAACP Youth Council, 11 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. See NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) National news coverage of the boycott, 37, 42, 51–52 Nixon, E. D. (Edward Daniel), 6–7, 9, 11, 21f arrest of, 48 and bus boycott leadership, 24 and bus boycott’s success, 86 criticism of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 45 and day one of boycott, 17, 18 leadership history, 18, 37 and Parks, Rosa arrest of, 15, 16 violence toward, 47 Nonviolence, doctrine of, 47, 53, 64, 77–79, 85 Northern view of segregation, 29, 62 financial support of boycott by Northerners, 55 Obama, Barack, 87 Parks, Frank, 39, 54 Parks, Raymond, 16 Parks, Rosa, 11–16 arrest of, 13–16, 51 character of, 15 and Colvin, Claudette, arrest of, 8 in court, 21f court case, 23 decision to fight arrest charges, 15–16 effects of boycott on, 47 views on bus segregation, 12 and voting rights, 11 Passive resistance. See Nonviolence, doctrine of Patton, Gwen, 83


Pearson, Ted, 57 Plessy v. Ferguson, 68, 69 Powell, Adam, 55 Randolph, A. Philip, 6 Rebel Club, 80 Reform requests for Montgomery bus system, 36, 39–41 Rives, Richard, 67–70 Robinson, Jo Ann arrest of, 51 and the boycott’s success, 86–87 and federal court case, 65 meeting with Gov. James Folsom, 59 and the MIA, 24, 37 newsletter during boycott, 36 publicity for boycott, 16, 17, 18–19 and the WPC, 7–9 “Rolling churches,” 42–43 Roosevelt, Eleanor, support of boycott, 60 Rutledge, I. B., 61 School integration, 4–5, 12, 68 Segregated bus seating. See Bus seat segregation Segregated public facilities, 2, 55 Sellers, Clyde, 20, 22, 39, 41 in Browder v. Gayle, 67, 69 criticism of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 44 and scam about boycott ending, 43–44 at trial of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 54 “Share a Ride” plan, 74 Shelton, Bobby, 75 Slavery, 1 Smiley, Glenn, 78 Smith, Mary Louise, 9, 65, 68–69 Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), 84 State of Alabama v. M. L. King Jr., 53–55 Supreme Court, United States. See U.S. Supreme Court


Taxi drivers of Montgomery, 19, 42 Thetford, William, 53, 54 Thirteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution, 1 Train porter’s union, 6 Transportation alternatives during boycott, 22, 36, 42–43, 44 car pools banned, 71–72 church station wagons, 42–43 insurance cancelled for car pools, 44 volunteer drivers for, 43 Trials of boycott leaders, 53–55 Unions, black, 6 United Auto Workers Union, 37 Urban League, 18 U.S. Supreme Court, 65, 70, 71, 72, 79 Violence after boycott, 80–81 Violence during boycott, 47–48, 61, 70


Voter’s League of Montgomery, Alabama, 6–7 Voting rights for blacks, 2, 11 Walker, Martha, 54 White Citizens Council (WCC), 42, 44, 55, 57–59 after the boycott, 75, 79 hate literature of, 59 mass rally (1956), 59 police connection with, 58–59 White support of bus boycott, 60–61 Wilkins, Roy, 45 Williams, Donnie, 52 Wilson, A. W., 37 Women’s Political Council (WPC), 7–9, 16, 17 Women’s role in boycott, 60, 63, 64–65. See also under individual names

ABOUT THE AUTHOR CHERYL PHIBBS is an independent freelance writer living in Winston Salem, NC. She has taught writing, and produces manuscripts, business materials, and public relations articles. Her previous works include Changing History: An Introduction to Pioneers of Human Rights, Center Grove: A Living Testimony of God’s Faithfulness, and George W. Bush: An Appointment with History.