During the slave era, there were plenty of segregation laws that were passed. The law about segregation on public transportation was passed as early as 1900 by Jim Crow. The Jim Crow law ensured blacks rode at the back and they had to stand up and leave seats to white people. It did not make sense when blacks were 75% of the passengers. It also required that the African Americans paid their fares at the front and used the back doors to get into the bus. It went on until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s made possible by the story of Rosa Parks and the bus incident on December 1, 1955.
The Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s following the outrage of the black community.They were tired of the mistreatment by the white community. Rosa Parks states that the only tired that I was was of giving in."She was one of the people in the community that had had enough of all the segregation and decided that action had to be taken.
The African Americans were sometimes attacked by the white drivers and left stranded after paying their fares. They would be required to pay at the front, get off the bus and then reenter the bus through another door at the back. Sometimes the drivers would even drive away before the passengers were able to board. It could also be argued that the Civil Rights Movement could have been followed by the numerous cases of the lynching of innocent men and women that were charged with different crimes. A social protest campaign against racial segregation on the public transport system of Montgomery famously known as the Montgomery bus boycott was held. It began the civil rights movement that lasted from December 5, 1955-December 20,1956.
A woman named Rosa Parks defied the laws set at the time that required African Americans to give up their seats for white people by refusing to stand up when she was ordered to do so. It led to her arrest after the bus driver phoned the police to report a black woman who had broken the law. At the time, she did not know that she would become the test case that was so much sought after by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was described as one of the finest citizens there was in Montgomery by E.D Nixon.
E.D Nixon was the president of the local NAACP chapter. He saw this as an opportunity to bring up a test case to allow Montgomerys African American community challenge segregation on the city's public buses. There had been previous cases that were presented by the NAACP that sought to bring an end to the discrimination laws. They include;
Claudette was a 15year old high school student that had been arrested on March 2, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat for a white man. She was detained and removed from a public bus. She was then an active member of the NAACP Youth Council. Black activists began to build a case to challenge state bus segregation laws around Claudette but when Nixon found out the teenager was pregnant; he did not proceed. It was because he was searching for the "perfect person, someone who was above reproach. When asked to explain he said, I had to be sure that I had somebody I could win with."
The NAACP litigated the case of Irene Morgan in 1946 which resulted in a victory. It was because the segregated interstate bus lines violated the commerce clause. This victory was, however, short-lived and the ruling was circumvented by the Southern bus companies instituting their regulations.
Lillie Mae Bradford
An arrest for disorderly conduct was made for Lillie Mae Bradford in May 1951. Reason being she had refused to leave the white people section of the bus until the bus driver corrected a charge on her transfer ticket.
Cases that took place in Montgomery involved segregation on the public transport system. None of them, however, resulted in much as the authorities always found a loophole and came up with new laws. Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat to the white people served as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement because she could be used as a test case by the NAACP. Rosa worked for the NAACP as an investigator that dealt with cases of sexual assault. In 1945, she was sent to Abbeville to investigate a case. It was the gang rape of Recy Taylor. A protest arose around the case, and this was the first nationwide civil rights protest that marked the beginning for the Montgomery bus boycott. Parks was considered a good candidate because she was employed and married along with her being considered a model citizen.
Following Rosa Park's arrest, Nixon planned a meeting of local ministers at Martin Luther King Jrs church. He was not able to attend the meeting due to tight work schedule but asked that the leader for the proposed boycott would not be picked until he returned. They selected Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and King to lead the boycott. King was a young minister that was new to Montgomery and Nixon thought that the fathers had no time to terrorize him. It was the reason why he was Nixon's choice. Nixon faced reluctance by the clergymen and threatened to reveal them to the black community. King agreed to be the leader of the MIA and Nixon was elected the treasurer. On the night of Park's arrest, the Womens Political Council that was led by Ms. Jo Ann printed and circulated a flyer throughout Montgomery black community. The flyer urged the black community to stay off the buses on the day of Rosa Parks trial. It was significant because the majority of the riders were black hence the bus company would be hit hard. Something had to be done. The flyer read Negroes have rights too, for if the Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are black people, yet we are arrested. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue."
Rosa Parks was introduced at the meeting that was held at Mt. Zion Church. A mass boycott of public transport was suggested to request a fixed dividing line between the different sections of the bus. It meant that if the white part of the bus were full then the whites would have to stand and no blacks would be forced to stand up. It was seen as a compromise as opposed to asking for a full integration. They also demanded courteous treatment by bus operators and be seated on a first come-first serve basis.
Most black people boycotted the buses in support, and at the time it caused enough economic distress. The pressure amplified and on June 4, 1956, the court ruled that Alabamas racial segregation laws for buses were unlawful. The state appealed, and it was moved to the Supreme Court. The ruling was upheld, and the boycott finally ended December 20, 1956. The city passed an order allowing the black passengers to sit practically anywhere they chose on the bus. This boycott inspired involvement from the South in the Civil Rights Movement.
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