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On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks (pictured) refused to give up her seat to a white passenger as she traveled on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
Four days later, blacks organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a non-violent resistance action, which revolutionized America’s historic Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century.
It was a seminal event in the civil rights movement. The campaign lasted from December 5, 1955—the Monday after Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person—to December 20, 1956.
This also transpired when the federal ruling Browder v. Gayle took effect and led to a United States Supreme Court decision, which declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional.
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.
They were frequently ordered to surrender their seats to white people even though black passengers made up 75% of the bus system’s riders.
African-American passengers were also attacked and shortchanged by bus drivers in addition to being left stranded after paying their fares. A number of reasons have been given for why bus drivers acted in this manner.
Plain racism, frustrations over labor disputes and labor conditions, and increased animosity towards blacks in reaction to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision played a factor. Many of the white bus drivers joined the White Citizens Councils as a result of the decision.
The boycott also took place within a larger statewide and national movement for civil rights, including court cases such as Morgan v. Virginia, the earlier Baton Rouge bus boycott, and the arrest of Claudette Colvin for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.