The Effectiveness of Montgomery Bus Boycott and its Influence on the Civil Rights Movement

This investigation will explore the following: “How effectively did the Montgomery Bus Boycott influence the civil rights movement?” The source being evaluated is a textbook for students studying A-level history for US civil rights. This source is relevant as it provides detailed information on the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

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The content of this source is valuable in studying the topic because the source is a textbook for students studying A level history. This source, therefore, provides both detailed objective information as well as a deep analysis of the boycott. Another value is the origins. The publishing date of the textbook is 2001, 45 years after the event ended. Some information about the event may have been uncovered and it may have contain information that was unavailable at the time of the event.

A limitation of the purpose is that the textbook is too broad for the topic. This is seen in the title of the textbook, “Heinemann Advanced History: Civil Rights in the USA, 1963-1980”, which indicates that the textbook is broadly about the US civil rights movement and not specifically about the topic. Therefore, the textbook possibly does not cover the topic in full detail due to it being a single event amongst many others. Another limitation of the origins are that the authors are teachers, not historians. Therefore, they may not have studied the topic extensively and may not be knowledgeable about the topic.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was very effective in influencing the civil rights movement. However, its effectiveness lies more so in its effect on later events. It introduced a new civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., and led to the formation of the SCLC, which would organise and play key roles in many other events in the movement. It also introduced the idea of non-violent mass protest and showed how it could be used to great effect. However, although the boycott officially segregated public buses, segregation was not truly achieved. Therefore, the Montgomery Bus boycott was very effective in influencing the civil rights movement through its impact on other civil rights events.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was significant for the civil rights movement in that it brought King into the spotlight as a prominent leader of the movement and led to the establishment of the SCLC, which would organise many other civil rights events. Prior to the boycott, King was an unknown Baptist minister that was not known in the civil rights movement. As stated by Rosa Parks, “He was so new to Montgomery and civil rights work.” This shows how King was an unknown name and was new to the movement. However, partly due to being unknown, King was elected president of the MIA and, over the course of the boycott, played an important role in its success by inspiring many of the black populace of Montgomery to partake in it. This is demonstrated when his home was bombed in an attempt to prevent the boycott from continuing, which shows his importance in it. The success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and his role in it therefore cemented him as a prominent figure of the civil rights movement. Moreover, King and other Baptist ministers formed the SCLC, which played key roles in several civil rights events. Some examples being the Albany Movement, the Birmingham campaign and the Selma march. Therefore, the boycott effectively influenced the civil rights movement through the introduction of King as a new leader of the movement and through the establishment of the SCLC, which would play a major role in later events.

The boycott was effective in influencing the civil rights movement because it introduced the idea of non-violent mass protest. Montgomery had a population of 120,000, of which a third was black. Most of the white populace had cars while the majority of the black populace did not, resulting in many black people using buses as their major means of travel. This resulted in black people being a major economic income for the bus company. The boycott exploited this by drastically reducing the amount of black bus users, which resulted in a serious loss of income for the company, losing 30,000 to 40,000 bus fares everyday. Moreover, because it was non-violent, it garnered sympathy, good media attention and support. It gathered huge publicity both domestic and abroad, and attracted many donations, which would be used to fuel the boycott through purchasing more cars for carpools. Due to the proven effectiveness of it, later civil rights events would use non-violent mass protest, such as the sit-ins and wade-ins, Birmingham campaign and the Freedom Rides. Therefore, the boycott was very effective in influencing the civil rights movement through its introduction of non-violent mass protest to exploit the power of black people, which would later be used by many other events in the movement.

However, the boycott was not effect in influencing the movement because segregation in buses still maintained. The boycott aimed to desegregated the buses of Montgomery, which they officially achieve on 20 December 1956 after the supreme court stated that the bus company’s bus segregation was unconstitutional. However, the success of the boycott was met with white violence. Buses were shot at by snipers and black bus riders were attacked. On 1957, 5 black churches were destroyed by bombings. This white violence caused many black bus riders to revert back to the former segregation customs, as stated by Journalist Charles Silberman, “by 1963, most Negroes in Montgomery had returned to the old custom of riding in the back of the bus.” Therefore, the boycott was not effective in influencing the movement due to it not being able to achieve true desegregation of buses in Montgomery.

In conclusion, the boycott was therefore more so effective in influencing the civil rights movement than not, due to its effect on later events. It brought Martin Luther King Jr. to the public eye of the movement and led to the establishment of the SCLC. The boycott also introduced to the movement nonviolent mass protest. However, it did not truly desegregate buses in Montgomery. Overall, although segregation still maintained in buses in Montgomery, the boycott was very effective in influencing the civil rights movement through its impact on later events.

My investigation raised the issue of some sources inhibiting information. I realised that many of my sources were bias they did not mention how desegregation still occurred in buses after the boycott. When studying history as a historian, I have to get a variety of different sources as some information may have been left out due to bias.

Bibliography

  1. Paterson, David; Willoughby, Susan; Willoughby, Doug. Heinemann Advanced History: Civil Rights in the USA, 1963-1980. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2001. Print.
  2. “Montgomery Bus Boycott”, The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. 2019. Website. Accessed on 20 November 2019. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/montgomery-bus-boycott
  3. Woodham, Rebecca. “Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)”, Encyclopedia of Alabama. 2010. Website. Accessed on 20 November 2019. http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2567
  4. “The Montgomery Bus Boycott”, National Park Service. 2016. Website. Accessed on 22 November 2019. https://www.nps.gov/articles/montgomery-bus-boycott.htm
  5. Silberman, Charles E.. Crisis in Black and White. University of Michigan: Random House, 1964. Print.
  6. “What was the short term impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-1957?”, Marked by Teachers. Website. Accessed on 30 November 2019. http://www.markedbyteachers.com/as-and-a-level/history/what-was-the-short-term-impact-of-the-montgomery-bus-boycott-1955-1957.html
07 April 2022

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