Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The United States Congress has called her "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement".
On December 5th, 1955 a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system by African Americans began as a social and political protest against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system of Montgomery. The boycott was in response to the arrest of a black woman, Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man four days earlier.
The boycott was a seminal event in the civil rights movement in the United States. Prior to the bus boycott, Jim Crow laws mandated the racial segregation of the Montgomery Bus Line. As a result of this segregation African Americans were not hired as drivers, were forced to ride in the back of the bus, and were frequently ordered to surrender their seats to white people, even though black passengers made up 75% of the bus system's riders.
Under the system of segregation used on Montgomery buses, the ten front seats were reserved for whites at all times. The ten back seats were supposed to be reserved for blacks at all times. The middle section of the bus consisted of sixteen unreserved seats for whites and blacks on a segregated basis
Whites filled the middle seats from the front to back, and blacks filled seats from the back to front until the bus was full. If other black people boarded the bus, they were required to stand. If another white person boarded the bus, then everyone in the black row nearest the front had to get up and stand, so that a new row for white people could be created. it was illegal for whites and blacks to sit next to each other.
On December 1, 1955, Parks was sitting in the foremost row in which black people could sit (in the middle section). When a white man boarded the bus, the bus driver told everyone in her row to move back. While all of the other black people in her row complied, Parks refused, and she was arrested for failing to obey the driver's seat assignments.
Found guilty on December 5, Parks was fined $10 plus a court cost of $4. She appealed.
On the night of Rosa Parks' arrest, the Women's Political Council printed and circulated a flyer throughout Montgomery's black community requesting that African Americans not ride the bus on Monday, December 5th.
The boycott proved extremely effective, with enough riders lost to the city transit system to cause serious economic distress. Martin Luther King later wrote "[a] miracle had taken place." Instead of riding buses, boycotters organized a system of carpools, with car owners volunteering their vehicles or themselves driving people to various destinations. Some white housewives also drove their black domestic servants to work. When the city pressured local insurance companies to stop insuring cars used in the carpools, the boycott leaders arranged policies at Lloyd's of London.
Pressure increased across the country. The related civil suit was heard in federal district court and, on June 5, 1956, the court ruled in Browder v. Gayle (1956) that Alabama's racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. As the state appealed the decision, the boycott continued. The case moved on to the United States Supreme Court. On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld the district court's ruling that segregation on public buses and transportation was against the law
The bus boycott officially ended December 20, 1956, after 381 days. The city passed an ordinance authorizing black bus passengers to sit virtually anywhere they chose on buses.
The Montgomery bus boycott resounded far beyond the desegregation of public buses. It stimulated activism and participation from the South in the national Civil Rights Movement and gave Martin Luther King national attention as a rising leader.
Al of this occurred because of a simple act of nonviolent civil disobedience by a woman named Rosa Parks.
We have come far as a nation from those days. I hope and pray that we do not undo everything she accomplished by going too far down the path in the other direction else we end up back where we began.