The American Civil Rights Movement: Montgomery Bus Boycott Essay
The Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 was a year-long protest against the Montgomery transport system for equality and desegregation and was another turning point for the American civil rights movement. There were many causes and consequences that affected many people. The causes of the boycott were the discrimination of Blacks by their colour in southern states like Montgomery, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat and being arrested and distribution of leaflets in Montgomery.
The Bus Boycott also resulted in various consequences. They included the desegregation of public transport, emergence of national figures as civil rights leaders and a new direct action that was shown to be powerful in civil rights campaigns. The discrimination of Montgomery was one of the causes of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Black African-Americans had been facing discrimination for many decades. From slavery in the 1700s to the 1870’s when Jim Crow laws were introduced. Jim Crow laws encouraged the idea of ‘separate but equal’.
The two races of America, black and white, were not allowed to integrate and the mixing of races was illegal in most public schools, public transportation and eating facilities. These laws enforced and increased the discrimination of blacks in America, especially in southern states. Although the idea was separate but equal, Blacks still did not receive equal privileges as whites. One example of this were the Black schools of America. They had less qualified teachers, school supplies and were allocated in dangerous areas. In Montgomery, Alabama discrimination was a part of everyday life in the 1050’s.
Blacks who lived in Montgomery faced discrimination in the form of segregation in places such as parks, schools, restrooms, theatres and buses and restrictions on employment. For example black Americans were limited to low paying, low skilled jobs like factory working, janitors and maids. The laws of the America made it difficult for blacks to register and participate in elections. The justice system often proved discriminatory towards Blacks, unjustly jailing and executions while also banning them from holding public office.
This was a cause of the Montgomery Bus Boycott as blacks were tired of being second class citizens in American society and wanted to overthrow the discrimination that they faced every day. This led to Rosa Parks to take specific action to contribute to this cause. The action that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott was Rosa Park’s refusal towards the Montgomery Bus System. On the 1st of December 1955, Rosa Parks, a black citizen of Montgomery, boarded one of the Montgomery City Bus Line buses.
After the bus had filled up the bus driver demanded that four blacks on board, including Rosa Parks, give up their seat to white passengers. He was allowed to do this as it was city law that stated that blacks must give up their seats to whites. Rosa Parks remained seated and refused to give up her seat. The bus driver soon called the police and Rosa Parks was arrested and sent to Montgomery jail. This action gave the opportunity to take a stand against racial discrimination.
After word of the arrest of Parks spread around members of the black community, they decided that a boycott of the Montgomery Bus System would create interest into the desegregation of the buses. Many civil rights groups and organisations contributed and were involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott after hearing about Rosa Park’s story, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the Women’s Political Committee that organized the distribution of the leaflets which helped develop and advance the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The success of the distribution of leaflets was one of the causes of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. After hearing about Rosa Parks arrest many civil rights comities and activists came together to organise movements that would contribute to the desegregation of the Montgomery Bus System. One of the actions that was taken was the distribution of leaflets around Montgomery. Soon after Parks was arrested thousands of leaflets were distributed around Montgomery calling for the city’s 50,000 black citizens to protest by boycotting the city buses for one day.
This was one of the causes for the boycott as it was successful because on Monday the 5th of December 1955 the buses of the Montgomery were virtually empty. The success of this action of distributing the leaflets meant that the civil rights committees, activists and leaders could predict impending success in potential future protests and allow them to advance in these actions against discrimination and segregation, eg. The Montgomery Bus Boycott. There were many consequences that followed the historical event, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The desegregation of public transportation was one of these consequences. After the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, media coverage helped increase the pressure across the country of desegregation of buses. This civil rights suit was soon heard in the Federal District Court, an on June 4th, 1956, the court ruled that Alabama’s segregation laws for buses were ‘unconstitutional’. The case moved to the United States Supreme Court after the state of Alabama appealed the decision.
On November 13th, 1956, the Supreme Court supported the district court’s decision, and a court order of desegregation of buses soon followed. After the boycott officially ended on December 10th, 1956, the city of Montgomery passed a ruling allowing black bus passengers to sit anywhere on the bus. A consequence of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was the emergence of prominent national figures as civil rights leaders. When the boycott took place, national figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. took the opportunity to take the civil rights cause to a national level.
King was highly involved in the boycott. He organised many events during the boycott and was the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) that coordinated the boycott. His newly gained national status allowed increased rates of media coverage on the Boycott which helped the success of the protest. Martin Luther King Jr. became a prominent civil rights leader as international attention focused on Montgomery. The success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott increased Martin Luther King Jr. tatus in the civil rights movement and he was now seen as the national symbol for the civil rights movement. Another consequence of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was a new direct action that was shown to be powerful in civil rights campaigns. The boycott was significant because the protest was based on a non-violent philosophy. Because the Montgomery Bus Boycott was successful, non-violent protests were seen to be effective in civil rights campaigns. This meant that peaceful protesting was used more in civil rights demonstrations eg. Sit-ins, marches and other examples of passive resistance.
Non-violent protests were effective in the civil rights movement as it allows protestors to have more control over their message and more people are prepared to be involved. Because the Montgomery Bus Boycott used non-violent protesting methods it increased the status of peaceful protesting and resulted in other civil rights campaigns to use these methods eg. The Greensboro sit-in, the Birmingham campaign and the March on Washington. The historical event, the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, was a significant event in the civil rights movement in America due to the factors stated above.
The causes of the boycott were the discrimination of Blacks in Montgomery, Rosa Park’s arrestment and distribution of leaflets in Montgomery. The consequences that followed this historical event were the new desegregation laws of public transport, the rise of national figures as civil rights leaders and a new direct methods that were effective in the civil rights movement. These causes and consequences has affected America in many ways, because the Montgomery Bus Boycott helped to bring success and victory to the civil rights movement.