Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Montgomery bus boycott was a mass protest by African American citizens in the city of Montgomery, Alabama, against Segregation policies on the city's public buses. It was nine years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would change the nation forever. But in 1955, when rosa parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, she was arrested and jailed for violating state segregation laws. She did not realize at the time that her actions would have an immediate effect on other members of the African American community and a lasting effect on the national history of Civil Rights. The resultant massive boycott lasted for 11 months. It ended in late 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public bus segregation (the case involved the City of Montgomery) was unconstitutional.
Despite the threats and violence, the struggle quickly moved beyond school desegregation to challenge segregation in other areas. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a member of the Montgomery, Alabama, branch of the NAACP, was told to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person. When Parks refused to move, she was arrested. The local NAACP, led by Edgar D. Nixon, recognized that the arrest of Parks might rally local blacks to protest segregated buses. Montgomery's black community had long been angry about their mistreatment on city buses where white drivers were often rude and abusive. The community had previously considered a boycott of the buses, and almost overnight one was organized. The Montgomery bus boycott was an immediate success, with virtually unanimous support from the 50,000 blacks in Montgomery. It lasted for more than a year and dramatized to the American public the determination of blacks in the South to end segregation. In November 1956 the Supreme Court upheld a federal court decision that ruled the bus segregation unconstitutional. The decision went into effect December 20, 1956, and the black community of Montgomery ended its boycott the next day.
A young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., was president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that directed the boycott. The protest made King a national figure. His eloquent appeals to Christian brotherhood and American idealism created a positive impression on people both inside and outside the South. King became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) when it was founded in 1957. SCLC wanted to complement the NAACP legal strategy by encouraging the use of nonviolent, direct action to protest segregation. These activities included marches, demonstrations, and boycotts. The violent white response to black direct action eventually forced the federal government to confront the issues of injustice and racism in the South.
In addition to his large following among blacks, King had a powerful appeal to liberal Northerners that helped him influence national public opinion. His advocacy of nonviolence attracted supporters among peace activists. He forged alliances in the American Jewish community and developed strong ties to the ministers of wealthy, influential Protestant congregations in Northern cities. King often preached to those congregations, where he raised funds for SCLC.
Summary: The Montgomery (Alabama) Bus Boycott was a civil rights protest designed to use the African-American community's economic power to end racial segregation on Montgomery city.