​October 21, 1955: Mary Louise Smith Is Arrested On A City Line Bus

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In Montgomery, Alabama, 18 year old Mary Louise Smith REFUSED to give up her seat on a city line bus to a white passenger. She was arrested.

This was over 40 days before the Rosa Parks would famously refuse to give up her seat.

Mary Louise Smith (later Mary Louise Smith Ware) is a civil rights activist. She is notable for having been arrested in October 1955 at the age of 18 for refusing to give up her seat on the segregated bus system.

Smith was one of several women who were arrested for this offense prior to Rosa Parks that year. Parks was the figure around whom the Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized, starting December 5, 1955.

On February 1, 1956, Smith was 1 of 5 women named as plaintiffs in the federal civil suit, Browder v. Gayle, challenging the constitutionality of the state and local bus segregation laws. On June 13, 1956, a three-judge panel of the United States District Court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional. The ruling was upheld by the United States Supreme Court on November 13 in a landmark decision, and in December it declined to reconsider. 

On December 20, 1956, the Supreme Court ordered Alabama to desegregate its buses and the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended.

SEAT REFUSAL: On October 21, 1955, Smith returning home on the Montgomery, Alabama city line bus, was ordered to relinquish her seat to a white female passenger, which she refused to do. Her stand landed her in jail and she was charged with failure to obey segregation orders, some 40 days before the arrest of Rosa Parks on similar charges. Her father bailed her out of jail and paid her fine, nine dollars.

The incident was unknown except to family and neighbors.Later a cousin, at a mass meeting to support a planned bus boycott, discussed her case with organizers. 

The attorney Fred Gray asked Smith and her father to become plaintiffs in a civil rights class-action law suit to end segregated seating on city buses. Her father agreed, for he wanted justice.

Read more about the aftermath of her story at: Daily Black History Facts

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