The Montgomery Bus Boycott
On December 1st, 1955, one woman’s refusal to move from a bus seat made a huge contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. As a matter of fact, it was almost as if she started it herself. Rosa Parks and her arrest are what led up to be a main event during the Civil Rights Movement. The African American community knew that by having this boycott, it would cost many white people money, but more importantly the bus company. This mass protest was a very successful way to bring the inequalities of the African American’s case to the public.
Though more white Americans were deciding against segregation, it would have to take more than that to change the minds the rest of the world, including Montgomery, Alabama. Some of the little things that contributed to the boycott were the most important, such as the Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws had many different parts to it, but more in particularly the buses. The laws prevented the African Americans from sitting in the front aisles of the bus. Therefore, they sat in the back or even had to stand. When the white rows were filled up, an African American would be told to give up their seat and move. If not, they would be arrested. In Rosa Parks’s case, she was already in the black section so by not getting up, she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Apparently to the white people of Montgomery, she was.
Over all, segregation and discrimination was the main problem. The “separate but equal” statement was true about one thing, which was being separate. However, things were clearly unequal. Almost everything from schools, to cemeteries was divided black from white. The NAACP and other organizations immediately decided to take action after Parks’s arrest. To help with the bus boycott, they contacted African American ministers from all over Montgomery. Among them was soon-to-be leader, Martin Luther King Jr. Leaders like MLK Jr. helped to promote racial justice, including the bus boycott. Like Rosa Parks, he was a key figure to African Americans during that time.
Referring back to Rosa Park’s arrest, the NAACP decided to take action, organizing a one-day boycott. They asked African Americans, who accounted for about 75% of Montgomery’s riders, to stop taking the bus for a day. So on Dec. 5th, 1959, Montgomery’s buses traveled almost empty. The African Americans that once rode the bus now covered the side-walks, walking or waiting for a carpool with their friends. This one event went so successfully it soon turned into a movement. African Americans decided to continue the boycott, which ended up lasting for 381 days. The Montgomery Improvement Association or (MIA) was created to direct the protest. It came up with a list of demands that became known as the “first come, first serve” policy. It stated the African Americans would still sit in the back of the bus, but would not have to give up their seats to anyone. The MIA almost demanded that the bus company hire African American drivers on routes that mostly consisted of African American riders. Until the company met these demands, the African Americans of Montgomery would stay off the buses and continue on with the boycott. In the beginning, the boycott seemed to be nothing. Then by after the end of the first month, the white community began to suffer. The loss of passengers harshly affected the bus company, and the loss of trade in white businesses. The white citizens decided to take action and fight back. Employers threatened to fire African American workers if they didn’t abandon the boycott. Others were often pulled over and falsely accused for speeding. When the threats failed to pursued the minds of African Americans, people turned to violence. Through the violence and harsh treatment, the African Americans of Montgomery stood strong. They wanted full equality and were going to stop at nothing to get it. After filing a lawsuit against Alabama’s bus system in December 1956, the United States Supreme Court finally agreed to ruling that segregation on Alabama buses was unconstitutional. The boycott paid off.
Because of the success of the Montgomery bus boycott, many people across the nation took more interest in changing the thought of segregation. There were more nonviolent protests against laws such as seating at movie theatres, restaurants, and department store dress rooms. Sit-ins across the South became very frequent. In today’s world, the boycotts that went on during the Civil Rights Movement impacted on how we now live our lives. African Americans no longer face the fear of segregation and hate. Certain laws have been passed to protect their citizenship, and white Americans now respect that.
By having the Montgomery bus boycott, the African American’s case was easily brought to the public in a nonviolent way. What led up to having the boycott, were the Jim Crow laws that kept the two races of black and white separate. Adding on to that, the main problem was mostly the segregation and discrimination the black community in Montgomery had to face. Combining both the contributing and main causes, the event of the Montgomery bus boycott was developed. The immediate effects of the boycott at first were nothing, but then many white citizens turned to violence. In the long term, the bus boycott had a positive effect on everyone, making African American’s gain respect. Thanks to the support from people of all races around the world, “All men are created equal.” can now be said as a fact, not just a statement.