Rosa Parks And The Montgomery Bus Boycott As Symbols Of The Civil Rights Movement

During the 20th Century, the color of a person’s skin affected how the rest of the world treated them. People with dark skin were treated worse than people with light skin. Many white people were discriminatory against blacks and thought them inferior. This started when America did, when black people were kidnapped from Africa and brought to America as slaves. Slavery was abolished in 1865 but prejudice remained.

In 1950, many cities in the south were segregated. Blacks and whites had everything separate. There were separate restaurants, hotels, bathrooms, movie theatres, parking lots, schools, churches, water fountains… Anything that someone could need, or use was segregated. Blacks did not have the same political rights. They were not allowed to vote. This gave them no way to protest their unjust situation. Another sentence on racism needed.

Segregation on buses was one of these injustices.

Montgomery buses had rules to enforce segregation. Blacks were required to sit in the back and whites could sit up front. When a bus got full, the driver could force a row of blacks to give up their seats for whites. The rules made it illegal for people of different races to sit in the same row/aisle. If one white person came into a full bus, the driver could make four black people give up their seats. These Rules were illegal to disobey. If a passenger refused to give up their seat they could be arrested. Blacks were required to sit in the back, but everyone paid up front. Black passengers would have to pay in the front, exit the bus, and reenter in the back. Sometimes a driver would drive off before the passenger had a chance to board.

Multiple cases of people being mistreated for refusing to give up their seats (had) occurred. Jo Ann Robinson and Claudette Colvin were two of them. The NAACP -- National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People-- wanted to find a good candidate among them for seeing through a court challenge. They decided on Rosa Louise McCauley was born in the winter of 1914, in Tuskegee Alabama. After her parents separated, she moved to Pine Level with her mother. She went to rural schools until she turned eleven. She remembered walking to school while the white kids got to take a bus.

“I'd see the bus pass every day ... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.” (1)

After completing elementary school, she went to the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. She then tried to get a high school diploma at the Alabama State Teacher’s College but dropped out of school to help her grandmother and mother.

In 1932 she married Raymond Parks. From his urging she finished her high school diploma. Rosa got a sewing job where she altered clothing, but she also took additional sewing projects and jobs on the side.

Raymond was an activist and he urged Rosa to work for the NAACP. She did and she became a secretary for Edward D. Nixon. Rosa worked at the NAACP for 12 years, investigating cases of unjustness (find where that came from).

On December 1, 1955, Rosa boarded a bus. She was sitting where the law said she could— in the space designated for blacks. The bus began to fill up. Soon there were no more empty seats. A couple of white passengers boarded the bus. The bus driver – James F. Blake – moved the divider behind the first ten seats and ordered a row of four black people to give up their seats. Rosa was one of those four. She moved to let the man sitting next to her get up. Then she moved to the window seat and stayed put. Blake called the police and Rosa was taken to jail. “As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, ‘Why do you push us around?’ She remembered him saying, ‘I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest’” (1). Later that day she was bailed out of jail by E. D. Nixon.

Seeing through a court challenge was meant to challenge the laws of segregation, declaring the ‘unconstitutional’. (Who) took Rosa’s case to a higher court.

Rosa’s trial was on Monday. Jo Ann Robinson and several other women (verify who) worked hard all night to print handbills. These handbills urged all blacks to stay off the buses on Monday to protest Rosa’s trial.

“We are…” the handbills read, “asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial ... You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don't ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday” (1).

And it worked! All day Monday the buses ran empty with the exception of a handful of white passengers. The Boycott continued after a unanimous decision by the black church community.

The trial lasted only 30 minutes amounted to a fine of fourteen dollars. But the Monday boycott itself was successful. The Boycott worked because more than 75% of bus riders were black. When those passengers refused to ride, the buses ran nearly empty. They lost huge quantities of money and couldn’t operate like they were supposed to. Carpools were organized as an alternative to taking the bus. People who owned cars volunteered them to the boycott. Detailed plans were well thought through for pick up and drop off places. Mass meetings were held on Mondays and Thursdays to “Keep up morale.” Martin Luther King Junior was appointed the of the boycott’s president.

The Boycotters originally were not fighting for entire equality, rather a compromise. Their initial requests were:

“1. Courteous treatment on the buses, 2. The hiring of black drivers in black neighborhoods, and 3. A first come, first serve seating by race.”

Blacks and whites would still be in the back and front respectively, however, those seated would not stand up unless out of courtesy and no one had to stand by an unoccupied seat. These demands although moderate/reasonable were rejected by the white officials. Segregation had to be gotten rid of before things could become just.

The White Citizens Council tried to prevent insurance from being given to the “rolling churches--” church vehicles that were used for as carpooling. (Who?) got insurance from an agency in England and the cars were rolling again. (2)

On February 21 a ‘special grand jury’ indicted 115 blacks after hearing more than 200 witnesses testify about who oversaw the boycott. This indictment included Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Junior, ministers and the carpool drivers. This meant that…

The Montgomery State court was asked by the city officials to make an injunction that banned carpooling because it was an ‘unlicensed’ form of transportation. A hearing on the injunction was to be held on November 13 to determine whether carpooling would be outlawed or not.

Word was received from the Supreme Court in Washington DC stating segregation ‘unconstitutional.’ The bill to outlaw carpooling got passed anyway, but it didn’t matter anymore. Seating on buses was no longer going to be segregated. The Boycott ended on December 20, 1956.

After the Boycott, bus segregation was banned. All passengers could sit wherever they chose. No one had to give up their seat for anyone else and people of different nationalities/races were not forbidden from sitting on the same row.

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became Symbols of the Civil Rights Movement. After the boycott, Rosa received threats. In 1957 she and her husband moved to Detroit, Michigan. Rosa continued working for the NAACP from Michigan. She helped house homeless. Ten years after her husband’s death she founded the Raymond and Rosa Parks Institute for Self-Development. Its purpose was to 'educate and motivate youth and adults, particularly African American persons, for self and community betterment'(6). In 1999, Rosa received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor


“Rosa Parks.” Wikipedia. 6 September 2019 (Source #1)

Freedman, Russel. Freedom Walkers. Wisconsin: Holiday House Publishing, Inc. 2017 (Source #2)

“Montgomery Bus Boycott.” Wikipedia. 12 September 2019 (Source #3)

“What If I Don’t Move to the Back of the Bus” The Henry Ford. 12 September 2019 (Source #4)

“Rosa Parks” 12 September 2019. (Source #5)

“Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development” Wikipedia. 19 November 2019 (Source #6)

07 September 2020
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