Friday, August 16, 2013

Rosa Parks

Perhaps it was early Christmas shoppers that caused it be crowded, but on December 1st, 1955, the white section of a bus was full in Montgomery Alabama. The driver, James Blake, ordered Rosa Parks to give her seat to a white man. He was the same driver who had, according to her account, left her in the rain after she had already paid her fare twelve years earlier. She refused to move to the back of the bus, moving over instead to a window seat. Blake asked if she was going to move. “No, I am not.” Parks arrested and charged with violating the law that stated blacks could not sit in the white section. She had been sitting in the colored section.

Edgar Nixon, president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and leader of the Pullman Porters Union, and her friend Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail the next evening.
Ann Robinson, a local activist, and the others decided that the chance was too good to pass up to fight against discrimination. Robinson stayed up late into the night preparing 35,000 handbills to pass out about the bus boycott. Around 75% of the city bus riders were black.
On the 4th, plans for the boycott were announced at the local black churches, and at a rally. The local newspaper, The Montgomery Advertiser, ran a story. At the rally, it was decided the boycott would continue until they won. On the 5th, Rosa Parks’ trial took place. It lasted 30 minutes. Found guilty, she was fined. The same day, they distributed those 35,000 handbills. They ended: “Please stay off the buses Monday.” It rained Monday, but they stayed off the buses.
That evening a small group met at the Mt. Zion Church to discuss the boycott. They elected Martin Luther King Jr., a local unknown minister, as their leader.
The boycott lasted 381 days. The bus company was nearly ruined, while dozens of their buses sat idol, rusting. The Supreme Court ruled in Browder v. Gayle that the city law was unconstitutional, and the city, probably gladly by this time, repealed it.
The group had won the right to sit anywhere just about anywhere on the buses they wanted. If they had not been willing to walk in the rain they would not have won. And they had also brought Martin Luther King to national fame.

Andrew C. Abbott

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