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Posted on August 19th, 2012, by

The Montgomery Bus Boycott is considered to be one of the most significant events in struggling against the racial discrimination of Afro-Americans in the USA. This case is often referenced as demonstrative in the struggle for civil rights and liberties of Afro-Americans. The Montgomery Bus Boycott took place in the mid 50-s of the 20th century actually from the 1st of December 1955 and till the 20th of December 1956. It is a perfect example of unity between black men and women in order to restore equity and guarantee equal attitude to the back people. This case is the one, illustrating the never ending struggle of black people.

Generalization of the Whole Case

On the December first Afro-American seamstress from Alabama Rosa Parks refused to give the place for the white male passenger in Montgomery. She was arrested and sentenced to the financial fee. During 1955 five black women and 2 children (excluding black men) were arrested in the public buses. One man was killed by the bus driver. Martin Luther King and Edgar Daniel Nixon (Known as E. D. Nixon) became initiators of Montgomery Bus Boycott: On Thursday, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a city bus and sat with three other blacks in the fifth row, the first row that blacks could occupy. A few stops later, the front four rows were filled with whites, and one white man was left standing. According to law, blacks and whites could not occupy the same row, so the bus driver asked all four of the blacks seated in the fifth row to move. Three complied, but Parks refused. She was arrested. When E.D. Nixon heard that Parks had been arrested, he called the police to find out why. He was told that it was [n]one of your damn business. He asked Clifford Durr, a sympathetic white lawyer, to call. Durr easily found out that Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus.  Nixon went to the jail and posted bond for Parks. Then he told her, Mrs. Parks, with your permission we can break down segregation on the bus with your case. She talked it over with her husband and her mother, then agreed (Lisa Cozzens, 1998). The boycott lasted 381 days and produces a serious influence on the public buses in Montgomery as Afro-Americans were 70% of their passengers: J. H. Bagley, manager of the bus company, issued this statement after hearing of the circulars: The Montgomery City Lines is sorry if anyone expects us to be exempt from any state or city law. We are sorry that the colored people blame us for any state or city ordinance which we didn’t have passed. We have to obey all laws just like any other citizen. We had nothing to do with the laws being passed, but we expect to abide by all laws, city or state, to the best of our ability’ (Joe Azbel, Montgomery Advertiser, 1955). The event received a huge resonance as from the back as well as from the white side. But finally ended with the victory of Afro-Americans in the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the ruling of the district court. During this period the whites tried to end the boycott but failed. Numerous terroristic action were hold on and Martin Luther King’s house was bombed: Whites tried to end the boycott in every way possible. One often-used method was to try to divide the black community. On January 21, 1956, the City Commission met with three non-MIA black ministers and proposed a compromise, which was basically the system already in effect. The ministers accepted, and the commission leaked (false) reports to a newspaper that the boycott was over. The MIA did not even hear of the compromise until a black reporter in the North who received a wire report phoned to ask if the Montgomery blacks had really settled for so little. By that time it was Saturday night. On Sunday morning Montgomery newspapers were going to print the news that the boycott was over and the city’s blacks were going to believe it. To prevent this from happening, some MIA officials went bar-hopping to spread the word that the stories were a hoax, that the boycott was still on. Later, the black ministers told King that they hadn’t understood the proposal. When that effort to break up the boycott failed, whites turned to violence. King’s home was bombed on January 30, and Nixon’s home was bombed on February 1. Next, whites turned to the law. On February 21, 89 blacks were indicted under an old law prohibiting boycotts. King was the first defendant to be tried. As press from around the nation looked on, King was ordered to pay $500 plus $500 in court costs or spend 386 days in the state penitentiary. (Lisa Cozzens)

Role of Men in the Montgomery Bus Boycott

For the mid-fifties it is essential that the role of men in the described case was very significant. The noticeable fact is that two main leaders Martin Luther King and E. D. Nixon were men. They organized the boycott and were the active participant in the civil rights movement. It will be essential to note that Rosa Parks husband was also an active participant of civil rights movement since Scottsboro case: Raymond was a barber alright. But he was an activist way before Rosa had stepped in. So much so that he was raising funds for the National Committee to Save the Scottsboro Boys! Does that sound a bell? So the story begins from here. What has been conveniently forgotten in the recent recalling of history is that the case of Scottsboro Boys was the first event that actually put the process of struggle in place. Rosa Parks got involved with the case of the Boys by marrying Raymond in 1932. Raymond was at that time collecting money to support the Scottsboro Boys (Saswat Pattanayak, 2005). The connection of these two cases is in the racial discrimination. Saswat Pattanayak as investigator noted that despite the difference in 30 years between these cases are strongly connected within the civil rights struggle.

Another important figure is Fred Grey Sr. who is now famous civil rights attorney and a friend supporting in this movement: Gray made history 50 years ago when he successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court case that led to the desegregation of buses in Montgomery. Gray not only was the attorney for Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – he was their friend. He continues his work in civil rights today and at age 74, he continues his work in arguing court cases. But it was Montgomery’s segregated buses that would be his proving ground. The bus situation and how our people were treated on buses bothered me,’ Gray said. While I didn’t have any direct altercations with anybody, I had seen many people who had, and when I looked around and realized that everything in Montgomery was completely segregated I just concluded there was something wrong about all of that’ (By Jannell McGrew, Montgomery Advertiser, 2005) He was the one whose contribution in the civil rights’ activity and movement could hardly be measured. He was supporting Afro-Americans during this scrutinized times providing successful argument in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ralph Abernathy was the one who accompanied Martin Luther King in organization of Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was the one who took an active part in establishment of Civil Rights Movement


Two significant figures in this case are Sonny Kyle Livingston and Raymond D. York. Those two were blamed in bombing Martin Luther King’s house and car. They were suspected in participating in organization of a number of terrorist actions and series of bombings that happened all around. They were also considered to be the participants of racist organization Ku-Klux-Klan: There was also a wave of bombings. The homes of two black leaders, four Baptists churches, the People’s Service Station and Cab Stand, and the home of another black were all bombed. In addition, an unexploded bomb was found on King’s front porch. Seven white men were arrested for the bombings, and five were indicted. The first two defendants, Raymond D. York and Sonny Kyle Livingston, were found not guilty, even though they had signed confessions. The remainder of the bombers were set free under a compromise that also canceled the cases of blacks arrested under the anti-boycott laws, although King still had to pay his $500 fine. The KKK also tried to scare the blacks, but it seemed to have lost its spell, King wrote. One cold night a small Negro boy was seen warming his hands at a burning cross.  The violence died down after several prominent whites spoke out against it, and the integration of the Montgomery buses was ultimately successful. (Lisa Cozzens).

Nowadays such a punishment for the terrorists and participants of extremist organization could be hardly imagined, especially, taking into consideration the fact that Sonny Livingston was previously blamed in killing an Afro-American. The connivance o the white criminals on racial ground were typical for those times. White people could kill the black ones and just sentenced to some financial fees. But anyway this case was a significant victory for civil rights struggle of the Blacks. The other participants on King’s house bombing were not found. It is still uncertain were they participants of Ku-Klux-Klan or any other movements, but they could be hardly connected with Scottsboro case.


Aggressive Attacks on the Leaders of Civil Rights Movement and Montgomery Bus Boycott

As it was mentioned earlier a number of bombings were organized in Montgomery area. But without any doubts one of the most significant is the bombing of Martin Luther King’s House as he was the key Activist of Montgomery Bus Boycott. This case was widely illustrated in local newspapers: A bomb tossed on the porch of the home of the Rev. M. L. King, Negro boycott leader, 309 S. Jackson St. about 9:15 last night shattered windows, ripped a hole in the porch and cracked a porch column. No one was injured. Neighbors reported that a light colored automobile was seen at the time of the explosion. It was believed to have stopped in front of the home as a man got out and placed or tossed the bomb on the porch (Joe Azbell, Montgomery Advertiser, 1956). Being an active participant of Montgomery Bus Boycott Martin Luther King understood that it was the act of threatening. But he believed in law and peaceful regulation of the whole situation: As a crowd of about 300 Negroes gathered outside the house, the 27-year-old Rev. King, in a dramatic scene, addressed them. He began by asking the group to be peaceful’. We believe in law and order. Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky at all. Don’t get your weapons.

He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what God said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them. I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped this movement will not stop. If I am stopped our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us’ (Joe Azbell, Montgomery Advertiser, 1956). The newspaper gives information that nearly 300 Afro-Americans surrounded King’s house, he asked them to be peaceful as they were quite aggressive at the moment, but there is no direct data if they were armed or not.

The same article of Montgomery Advertiser provides the assuring of Major and police that the guiltier would be found. But still nothing have been done until a number of such cases occurred in the area. The legal powers of the city (represented by men only) did not actually put serious attention to the fact. The officials represented by white men wanted regulating the case on the white side’ willing to end the segregation and providing the human rights for the whites only. But this case did not shake the will of the blacks to reestablish their civil rights and liberties.


In the end I would like to note that the role of men in the case of Montgomery Bus Boycott was much more significant. Even yet it was started by violation of rights of the black woman. The major participants and officials were men. The representatives of official legal powers of Montgomery were white men, the representatives of racist organization Ku-Klux-Klan were men, the leaders of the black side were also men and those who committed terroristic acts were also men. Even the representatives of Supreme Court in the US were men The Supreme Court today began a session that may go far in determining the country’s future course in the field of civil rights. The nine-man court in the weeks and months ahead will tackle a heavy docket of cases studded with problems of racial integration in public schools. It will also consider applications of the Smith Act, the government’s primary weapon against the Communist party (Associated Press, Montgomery Advertiser, 1956)

It is essential that in the mid 50-s of the past century the role of women were not as significant as nowadays. If this situation would happen in the present days, the case would observe the violation of female rights as well.

The strong connection between Montgomery Bus Boycott and Scottsboro Boys ( which also mainly caused male participation in it) is shown in the struggle against violation of human rights, the struggle against racism, what is more important. The decision of 9 men in the Supreme Court of the United States played really significant effect in the Civil rights struggle.

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