Wednesday, 5 December 2012

On this Day: 5th December 1955 - Rosa Parks goes on trial as historic bus boycott begins in Montgomery Alabama

After working all day, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus around 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the "colored" section.  As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded. At this point the bus driver moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the redesignated colored section which prompted the bus driver to call the police who arrested Parks.

Plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott on Monday the 5th of December to coincide with the trial of Rosa Parks were announced at black churches in the area, and a front-page article in The Montgomery Advertiser helped spread the word. At a church rally that night, those attending agreed unanimously to continue the boycott until they were treated with the level of courtesy they expected, until black drivers were hired, and until seating in the middle of the bus was handled on a first-come basis.

Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance during a trial that lasted just 30 minutes. She was found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs.

Outside it rained that day, but the black community persevered in their boycott. Some rode in carpools, while others travelled in black-operated cabs that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents. Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles (30 km).

In the end, black residents of Montgomery continued the boycott for 381 days, at considerable personal sacrifice. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months, severely damaging the bus transit company's finances, until the city repealed its law requiring segregation on public buses following the US Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional.

Photo Legacy: Making your memories last forever

Research courtesy of Wikipedia

Images courtesy of the U.S. National Archives under the Commons Agreement on Flickr


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