On the 1st of December 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, an African-American
seamstress, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for not
standing and letting a white bus rider take her seat.
It was an "established rule" in the American
south (at that time) that African-American riders had
to sit at the back of the bus. African-American riders
were also expected to surrender their seat to a white
bus rider if it was needed.
When asked to move to let a white bus rider be seated
Mrs. Parks refused. She did not argue and she did not
move. The police were called and Mrs. Parks was arrested
Mrs. Parks was not the first African-American to be
arrested for this "crime." But she was the first
to be arrested who was well known in the Montgomery African-American
community. She was once the secretary to the president
of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor of the Dexter
Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. He and other African-American
community leaders felt a protest of some kind was needed.
A meeting was called and an overflowing crowd came to
the church to hear his words. Dr. King told the crowd
that the only way they could fight back would be to boycott
the bus company.
On the morning of Dec. 5, the African-American residents
of the city refused to use the buses. Most walked, those
few with cars arranged rides for friends and strangers,
some even rode mules. Only a very small number of African-Americans
rode the bus that day.
Dr. King and the other African-American community leaders
held another meeting to organize future action. They named
their organization the Montgomery Improvement Association
and elected Dr. King as its president.
As the boycott continued the white community fought back
with terrorism and harassment. The car-pool drivers were
arrested for picking up hitchhikers. African-Americans
waiting on street corners for a ride were arrested for
On January 30, 1956 Dr. King's home was bombed. His wife
and their baby daughter escaped without injury. When Dr.
King arrived home he found an angry mob waiting. Dr. King
told the crowd to go home.
"We must learn to meet hate with love" he
The boycott continued for over a year. It eventually took
the United States Supreme Court to end the boycott. On
November 13, 1956 the Court declared that Alabama's state
and local laws requiring segregation on buses were illegal.
On December 20th federal injunctions were served on the
city and bus company officials forcing them to follow
the Supreme Court's ruling.
The following morning, December 21, 1956, Dr. King and
Rev. Glen Smiley, a white minister, shared the front seat
of a public bus. The boycott had lasted 381 days. The
boycott was a success.
Rosa Parks passed away on the evening of October 24th
2005. She was 92 years old.