On the first day of December 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress working at a Montgomery local departmental store, was arrested for defying an order to relinquish her bus seat for a white man as ordered by the bus driver, Fred Blake, in accordance to a Montgomery city ordinance that required the African Americans to use the rear half of the bus, leaving the front seats for the coloured people. Rosa Parks was charged $10 in court fines and an additional $4 in court fees. The courageous act of refusing to give up her seat marked the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Protest that lasted 381 days from December 5, 1955, to December 21 the following year. The world, as it is today, has been shaped and defined by a multiplicity of events whose ripple effects have gone a long way to address such macro socio-political matters as equality. This essay focuses on the Montgomery Bus Protest, one of the most significant real-world events that highly changed the social order of the United States and the rest of the world.
Four days after the bus incident involving Parks, African American leaders in Montgomery began mobilization efforts, urging all African Americans to boycott the Montgomery bus services. In its initial stages, the protest had three main agendas, the courteous treatment of African Americans, the employment of African American drivers and the institution of a first-come-first-seat principle. However, as the authorities continued to turn down these demands, the African American leaders pushed for deeper demands such as the equal treatment of African Americans, and the ultimate abolishment of the city ordinance that instituted busing segregation.
When the bus boycott began on the fifth day of December 1955, African Americans resorted to car-pooling and walking to work. The taxi cabs owned by African Americans charged a 10 cent fare just as did the Montgomery bus service, enabling black people to go about their businesses as usual. Unknown to many of us is the reality that Rosa Parks was a member and a secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the African American bodies instituted to give voice to the plight of the black people, and to push for their advancement. Such bodies came together in the fight for equality, electing Martin Luther King, Jr., a local pastor serving at the Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Despite the fact that the African Americans formed about seventy-five percent of the bus ridership, the authorities remained unbending on the busing segregation ordinance code, until the fifth day of June 1956 when the federal court of Montgomery ruled that any statute upholding racially segregated busing arrangements was in violation of the 14th amendment of 1868, after the American civil war, which ultimately declared equal rights and equal protection for all, regardless of race. The city's appellate efforts were thwarted when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the US judicial system, upheld the decision by the Montgomery federal court, on the twentieth day of December 1956. On that day, integration was achieved, and the racially segregating busing ordinance abolished.
However, the implementation of integration was not a smooth sail as African Americans faced serious challenges, including resistance and violence. There were serious cases of bombings, particularly targeting the African American leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. During the early days of integration, there were many cases of snipers shooting into buses, and again, targeting African American riders. Arrests were made, and the bombers were identified as ardent members of the Ku Klux Klan, a white extremist group that did not support integration. In the long run, integration was highly successful, going down on record as the first far-reaching protest in the quest for equality. The protest formed a ground for the broader Civil Rights Movement, making Rosa Parks the mother of the crusade.
In addition to attaining integration of busing arrangements, the Montgomery Bus Protest takes credit for many other achievements, including propelling Martin Luther King Jr. into the limelight and making him a symbol of unity among African Americans in the fight for equal rights and protection. King successfully fought the unbending authorities and systems, elevating the statuses of the black people. The nonviolent approach emphasized by King encouraged more such protests across the United States and the world over. Also, the Montgomery Bus Protest played an instrumental role in propelling black women to higher social strata through the formation of such influential interest groups as the Women's Political Council (WPC).
Summarily, the Montgomery Bus Protest goes down in history as a hallmark in the fight for equality, particularly for the African American people in the U.S, in the 1950s. The boycott, which attracted about 100 reporters to Montgomery drew both international and national attention to the matter of segregation and the suffering it inflicted on the African Americans. African American leaders pioneered the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an influential body which organized the March of Washington, at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous speech, I Have a Dream. The SCLC spearheaded the integration efforts in the south, adding to long list of attainments associated with the Montgomery Bus Protest.
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