American History The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement Montgomery Bus Boycott

 December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks left the department store where she was a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama to head home. She boarded the city bus and saw that the front seats marked "Whites Only" were almost empty. Even though they were empty, Rosa headed to the middle of the bus and sat down. In this section, African Americans were allowed to sit if no white passengers were standing.

After a few stops, the driver noticed that all the "Whites Only" section was full. At the next stop, more white passengers were ready to board the bus. The driver ordered the people in Rosa's row to move to the back of the bus. No one moved. When the driver raised his voice, everyone except Rosa moved.

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks' Bus

Rosa had been working for the past 10 years for the NAACP, but until this day had always followed the rules.

The bus driver left the bus and located a policeman. Rosa was arrested for breaking segregation laws.


Rosa's bail was posted by civil rights leader, E. D. Nixon. The next day, Nixon called a meeting with several leaders of the civil right movement. They agreed to call a boycott of the city bus system. Martin Luther King, Jr. was chosen to lead the boycott. The boycott was scheduled to take place the same day as Rosa's court appearance. In court, Rosa was found guilty and was fined $14. Rosa felt the law was unjust and decided to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Martin Luther King, Jr. told people that the bus boycott must continue until changes were made. The group asked for three things:

  1. to change the law that said African American bus riders must give up their seats to white passengers

  2. that bus drivers must be polite to all riders

  3. to hire African American bus drivers

The city commissioners refused these demands, so the boycott continued. As the bus company and downtown businesses began to lose money, the people of Montgomery began to bully those involved in the boycott. The protestors remained calm. Tensions grew when King's home was bombed. No one was hurt, but King's supporters were ready to get even. King told them they must continue the nonviolent protest.

After almost a year, on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that the Montgomery segregation laws were unconstitutional. Because of her bravery, Rosa Parks earned the title "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement."

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