Montgomery Bus Boycott Essay, Research Paper
During the first half of the twentieth century segregation was the way of life in the south. It was an excepted, and even though it was morally wrong, it still went on as if there was nothing wrong at all. African-Americans were treated as if they were a somehow sub-human, they were treated because of the color of their skin that somehow, someway they were different.
In the south it was almost impossible to find any aspect of life that was not segregated. The schools were segregated and the restaurants were segregated. There was ?Colored Only? bathrooms, and ?Colored Only? drinking fountains and segregation was definitely present in public transportation.
Martin Luther King Jr. could not have said it better when he addressed the massive crowd at the first meeting of Montgomery Improvement Association and said, ? . . . we are here, we are here because we are tired now.?1 On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks, a seamstress who lived in Montgomery, Al, refused to give her seat up to a white man who had nowhere to sit on the bus. Because she would not move to the back of the bus, she was arrested for violating the Alabama bus segregation laws. Rosa was thrown in jail and fined fourteen dollars.
Enraged by Mrs. Parks arrest the black community of Montgomery united together and organized a boycott of the bus system until the city buses were integrated. The black men and women stayed of the buses until December 20, 1956, almost thirteen months after the boycott their goal was reached. The Montgomery Bus Boycott can be considered a major turning point in the Civil Rights Movement because it made Martin Luther King Jr. public leader in the movement, starting point for non-violent protest as an effective tool in the fight for civil rights, showed that African-Americans united for a cause could stand up to segregation, and was big step towards integration and civil rights for African-Americans in America..
Being president of the Montgomery Improvement Association taught Martin Luther the skills and gave the exposure to become a great leader of a movement as large as the civil rights movement. The thing that Martin Luther King is remembered most for was his oratory skills. M.L.K was a master speaker and his speeches and the greatness of them will always live on forever. His Speaking style has been compared to such great people as Gandhi, Jesus and Fredrick Douglass because he knew how to dramatize the truth.2 This is evident when he gives his first speech as the president of the M.I.A. at the Holt Street Baptist church, he speech touched such a nerve in the massive crowd that response, a response to a sentence in King?s speech, ? . . . there comes a time when people get tired being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.? The applause was so loud it has been described as a ? . . .. startling noise that rolled on and on, like a wave that refused to break., . . .?3
During the beginning of the boycott very few people saw any possibility for the boycott to have much historical significance. Of the people whod did were considered of the rarest and oddest sort.4 The boycott needed something to really publicize it, something that would make it a point of interest. It needed something that open peoples eyes to what was happening in Montgomery. If something did happen it could have a positive effect on the outcome of the Bus Boycott.
On February 21, 1956 M.L.K and 88 other priests and leaders of the boycott were indicted under an old state law prohibiting boycotts. The arrests of these men caused a story of national interest, pointing all eyes of the country on the boycott going on in Montgomery. Since, M.L.K was the president the M.I.A, much of the attention given to the boycott was focused on M.L.K himself. Soon Martin was getting invitations from all over the country inviting him to speak about his beliefs on non-violence and civil rights.
Martin Luther King?s oratory skills made more and more popular and started becoming more and more of a leader in the movement.
When the Boycott ended victoriously with the Supreme Court ruling the bus segregation was unconstitutional was a very important thing for Martin Luther King. Not only had he led a massive non-violent boycott of all the blacks in Montgomery, he was succesful at winning what they had been fighting for. Again Martin Luther King?s name was linked to the bus boycott in national headlines. Only this time the papers were saying much greater things about him. He was not only the leader of a boycott, he was the leader of a successful boycott that caused the integration of buses in Montgomery. This good press made a very public and successful leader in the eye of the American Public.
On January 10 and 11, 1957 a group of 11 ministers met at Martin Luther Kings
Church in Atlanta, Ga. The topic of this meeting was what was going to happen next
since the boycott was over. At the meeting the group decided to form an organization called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC was going to be an organization the worked for the civil rights of African-Americans, by using the same tactics of non-violence that were used in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as the president of this new organization. The SCLC went on to be one of the strongest organizations in the Civil Rights Movement. The leadership Martin Luther King Jr.in SCLC made him one of the most profound leaders of the civil rights movement.
The Non-violent protest philosophy used by the people of Montgomery bus boycott was the starting point for non-violent protest to be used in America for the fight for civil rights. When M.L.K was attending Crozer seminary near Philadelphia he struggled with ideas of how to approach the race problem in America. Until he found his answers in the teachings of the great Mohandas Gandhi?s non-violence resistance. Gandhi taught that non-violent resistance is non-cooperation with evil. Gandhi believed that a group can strike, boycott, and hold protest marches non-violently and all predicated on love for the oppressor and divine justice.
After the boycott was over King?s use of non-violence lived on. A group that had been preaching non-violence and passive resistance for many years before the boycott called the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) put into publication a pamphlet in comic form called, ?Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.? This pamphlet offered advice and instructions on how to use passive resistance and massive non-violent resistance against segregation. ?The Montgomery Story,? was distributed all through the south. It was put into a comic book form because it was intended for people who don?t normally read books. But the comic found its way onto Vanderbilt College in Nashville, TN and into the hands of Divinity student James Lawson.
James Lawson was a hardcore pacifist and believer in non-violent residence. He had been in India learning about Gandhi?s teachings of non-violence. When he returned and learned about the Montgomery bus boycott from the pamphlet he went to got talk to Martin Luther King about the use of non-violence in a mass protest. Martin Luther King encouraged Lawson to teach the use of non-violence through out the movement.
Lawson went back to Nashville to continue his studies at Vanderbilt College. He then started a workshop there on non-violence. Students of Lawson?s went on start sit-in movement. The sit-it movement was when college student went into segregated restaurants and if they weren?t served they would just sit at lunch counter and engage with the manage or who ever was in charge in conversation how it was immoral to have segregated lunch counters. Then the next day they would go back, and then the day after that they would go back again. The ?sit-ins? would keep going back everyday until the lunch counters were integrated. Then they would move on to the movie theatres and libraries.
The unification of the African-American population of Montgomery during the boycott showed that the people united could stand up and break down the walls of segregation in the south. A just as important thing that came from the boycott as the bus integration is the fact that the integration was caused by massive protest. The realization that this could be done goes to showed people that if they united for a just cause, they could defeat segregation.
On November 13, 1956, a major step towards integration of the south and the civil rights of African Americans took place, the U.S. Supreme court declared bus segregation unconstitutional.
When the Bus boycott was over a battle in the fight for civil rights was won but the war was not. Just because the buses were desegregated, it doesn?t mean that all of Montgomery is going to be happy. There were many threats of violence. A pregnant women getting of a bus was shot in the leg. There were numerous bombings all over the town.
White groups like the Rebel Club were trying to get Martin Luther King Run out of town by spreading leaflets through out the town and saying that the authors were black. It shows that there were still many more things to be done until African-Americans in the United States could be, ?Free at last.? Not including segregation battles to be fought. African-Americans also have to fight for an acceptance in the south that will take them many more for them to get. So my even say they are not looked at the same as any other in the south.
In Martin Luther King Jr?s book, Stride Towards Freedom, he sums up the whole boycott very nicely. ?The Story of Montgomery us the story of 50,00 Negroes who were willing to substitute tired feet for tired souls and walk the streets of Montgomery until the walls of segregation were finally battered by the forces of justice.?
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