- The Montgomery Bus Boycotts in Alabama lasted 381 days, from December 5, 1955, until December 20, 1956.
- The boycotts were launched after Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.
- Approximately 40,000 African-American bus riders boycotted the bus system on the first day of the protest.
- The boycott was so successful that organisers continued it until local government integrated the bus system.
- The Montgomery Bus Boycotts brought national attention to the civil rights movement and made Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., household names.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Montgomery Bus Boycotts launched 64 years ago, on December 5, 1955, establishing a year-long, pioneering protest in the civil rights movement that made Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., household names.
Days before the protest began, Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955, while commuting home on Montgomery’s Cleveland Avenue bus after she refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger.
The local NAACP and Women’s Political Council (WPC), a group founded in 1946 by young black women who had long pushed for civil rights in Montgomery, circulated flyers calling for a boycott to start on December 5, the day Parks would be tried in court.
Tens of thousands of African-American bus riders boycotted the transportation system on December 5, and the protest was so successful that they agreed to continue doing so until the city met their demands.
The boycott lasted 381 days, ending on December 20, 1956, when the Supreme Court ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system.
The Montgomery Bus Boycotts brought national attention to the civil rights movement across the United States that continued through the 1960s.
Here’s a look back at the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested on December 1, 1955, for not vacating her bus seat for a white passenger.
She was fined $US10 plus $US4 in court fees for the crime.
A boycott on Montgomery buses was launched by The Women’s Political Council (WPC) and the local NAACP on December 5, the same day Parks was scheduled to appear in court.
Approximately 40,000 African-American bus riders boycotted the bus system on December 5. African Americans were the majority of city bus riders at the time.
Martin Luther King, Jr, and other black leaders created the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), and decided to continue the boycott until their demands were taken seriously by the city.
Black leaders organised carpools, black taxi drivers lowered their fairs, and people walked to work instead of using the buses during the boycott.
Police arrested protesters a number of times throughout the boycott. They once charged 80 leaders of the boycott at once.
In February 1956 a grand jury returned indictments against 115 people — including religious and social leaders — involved in the bus boycott.
The MIA filed a federal lawsuit challenging bus segregation. In June 1956, a federal district court ruled segregated seating on buses unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court upheld the ruling in mid-November, and on December 20, 1956, the decision went into effect. Montgomery buses were desegregated on December 21, 1956, and the boycott ended.
Integration was slow, though, because of Montgomery’s white community’s hostility toward the change. And while the buses were integrated, bus stops remained segregated due to violence and resistance within the white community.
In the aftermath of the integration of buses in Montgomery, four black churches and homes of black leaders were bombed.
Bus-related violence in the city mostly ended when police arrested 7 members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The boycott has been regarded as the first large-scale demonstration against segregation during the civil rights movement.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott catapulted Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., into the spotlight, and solidified MLK’s commitment to nonviolent protests.
King continued to be a leader in the civil rights movement for the next decade. In 1963, he gave his “I have a dream” speech in front of 200,000 people during the March on Washington.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the intention of ending discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin.
In March 1964, 600 peaceful demonstrators took part in a march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, in protest of the killing of black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson.
Upon reaching the Edmund Pettus Bridge, demonstrators were beaten and teargassed by Alabama state and local police. The event came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Weeks earlier, Afro-American Unity founder Malcolm X had been assassinated. Civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated four years later.
During the same time period, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act.
President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March in 2015, by making the same march, and delivering a speech on race relations in the US.
“The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities — but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before,” he said.
Today, the National Civil Rights Museum has a display on the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
And the National Memorial For Peace And Justice in Montgomery, a statue honours women who walked thousands of miles during the boycott.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.