Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political protest campaign in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama intended to oppose the city's policy of racial segregation on its public transit system. The ensuing struggle eventually led to a United States Supreme Court decision on November 13, 1956 that declared illegal the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses.

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Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.
The boycott was precipitated by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat in favor of a white passenger. In Montgomery, the dividing line between the front seats reserved for white passengers and the back ones reserved for black passengers was not fixed. When the front of the bus was full, the driver could order black passengers sitting towards the front of the bus to surrender their seat. Rosa Parks' seat was in that border area. She was arrested on December 1, 1955 for her refusal to move.

It is sometimes reported by oral legend and by grade-level education packages that Parks was simply too tired to move from her seat after a long day of work. This is dismissible as pop-history simplicity: In truth, she was a voluntary test case, chosen by the NAACP (with whom she was employed) to bring the relevant city law to the Supreme Court for judgement as to its constitutionality. Planned violations meant to test the strength of a law have been used in numerous civil rights cases before and after, including Plessy v. Ferguson.

In church meetings with the new minister in the city, Martin Luther King, Jr., a city-wide boycott of public transit as a protest for a fixed dividing line for the segregated sections of the buses was proposed and passed.

The boycott proved extremely effective, with enough riders lost to the city transit system to cause serious economic distress. Instead of riding buses, boycotters organized a system of carpools, with volunteer car owners carrying people to various destinations. Some white housewives also drove their black domestic servants to work, although it is unclear to what extent this was based on sympathy with the boycott, versus the simple desire to have their staff present and working. When the city pressured local insurance companies to stop insuring cars used in the carpools, the boycott leaders arranged policies with Lloyd's of London.

There were also taxis charging the same fares as buses to support the boycott. In addition to using motor vehicles other than public transit with segregation, some people used non-motorized means to get around, such as bicycling, walking, or even hitchhiking. As bicycling along bus routes could incidentally slow down buses under certain circumstance [1] ( and use of automobiles, including taxis, increased during the boycott, it was likely that traffic volumes, congestions, and problems increased.

In response, opposing whites formed chapters of the White Citizens' Council. Like the Ku Klux Klan, the Councils sometimes resorted to violence: Martin Luther King's house was firebombed and boycotters were physically attacked.

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The bus on which Rosa Parks rode is now a museum exhibit.

The city finally resorted to arresting Dr. King for organizing the boycott. That move backfired by bringing national attention to the protest. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that Alabama's racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional, handing the protesters a clear victory. This victory led to a city ordinance that allowed black bus passengers to sit virtually anywhere they wanted. Martin Luther King capped off the victory of a magnanimous speech to encourage acceptance of the decision.

The boycott resulted in the US civil rights movement receiving one of its first victories, and gave Martin Luther King the national attention that would make him one of the prime leaders of the cause.



(from Who Was Involved (

Further Readings

he:חרם האוטובוסים של מונטגומרי


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