In 1955, Edgar Daniel Nixon, the president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, along with other community leaders was waiting for a chance to challenge
segregation on Montgomery Alabama’s public buses. They were waiting for the right person to be arrested, someone who would be willing to stand up for their rights. On Thursday, December 1, 1955, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks refused to give up her seat when a white man asked her to. Nixon finally got his chance and organized a meeting of the local ministers. They chose the name Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and appointed Reverend Martin Luther King Junior as the leader.
The night of Rosa Parks’ arrest, Jo Ann Robinson circulated a flyer asking all Negroes to stay off all buses on Monday. The MIA had a meeting the next morning. They decided on a proposal for a dividing line on buses so that there was a section for blacks and a section for whites. This would mean a white could not make a Negro stand up from their seat behind the line. They believed that this was a fair compromise the city would accept. The MIA also wanted all bus passengers to receive civil treatment by bus drivers, be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and blacks to be employed as bus drivers. They gave the proposal to the city that Friday.
The boycott started on Monday, December 5, 1955. Very few blacks rode the bus that day, so it was decided to continue the boycott. The effectiveness of the boycott was due to the fact that the majority of passengers that rode the buses were black, and without enough passengers the bus system experienced great financial distress. The boycotters formed a system of carpools, with car owners transporting people to various places in Montgomery. White housewives drove their servants to work. The city tried to stop carpools by forcing local insurance companies to stop insuring the cars used in the carpools. Because of this, boycott leaders arranged policies with Lloyd’s of London, a British insurance market. Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, which was equal to the cost of riding the bus, until December 8 when city officials required cab drivers to charge at least 45 cents per ride. People also used other forms of transportation such as walking, cycling, or even hitchhiking. Across the nation, black communities and churches raised money for the boycott and collected new and slightly used shoes for the citizens who now walked to work everyday.
After about six months on June 4, 1956, the federal district court ruled that Alabama’s racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. But, the case was appealed and the segregation laws were kept until on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. This led to a city ordinance that allowed black bus passengers to sit anywhere they wanted. The boycott finally ended on December 20, 1956.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of the U.S. civil rights movement’s first victories. Not only could the Montgomery blacks ride the buses as equals, but now blacks in other places could too. The boycott started a movement for equality that opened up opportunities for many blacks to prove that they were equal. Since it proved that one Jim Crow law was unconstitutional, people began to wonder if maybe all Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. The Montgomery Bus Boycott started a revolution in America that will never be forgotten.