Causes and Events


  • Black Americans had to follow the instructions of the white drivers
  • Front of bus reserved for whites
  • Blacks could not sit next to whites even if there was s eat vacant next to them
  • Blacks had to stand to make room for a white person if the bus was full

The Course of Events

  • Thursday 1st Dec 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested
  • Jo Ann Robinson, leader of the Montgomery Women’s Political Council, with support from students, printed 1000s of leaflets encouraging people to boycott buses
  • Decided to hold a 1 day boycott on Monday 5th Dec – day of Parks’ trial
  • Local civil rights activists E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr became involved
  • Planned a rally for the evening of trial
  • NAACP prepared a legal challenge to segregation
  • At the rally the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was set up
  • Aims were to oversee the boycott, improve race relations in the area & change policy of black Americans standing when white seats were vacant
  • 20,000 people involved
  • 7000 attended the rally
  • MLK gave inspirational speech – promoted non-violence
  • Humiliated and oppressed in their own country
  • Patience had ended
  • Guided by law and order
  • Rosa Parks fined $10 and $4costs
  • MIA decided to continue boycott and push for complete desegregation on buses
  • Black taxi companies only charged 10 cents per ride
  • An obscure Montgomery law was invoked stating min fare had to be 45 cents
  • Too expensive for black workers
  • Churches bought cars to take people to work
  • Had specific pick-up places
  • People were harassed by police while waiting for their lift – local laws about crowds gathering
  • Police tried to intimidate drivers & arrested them for minor traffic violations BUT the boycott continued
  • The Montgomery White Council led organised opposition
  • Membership increased to 12000 by March 1956 & included leading city officials
  • Extreme violence used against the boycotters
  • Jan 1956 MLK’s home firebombed
  • 90 leading civil rights activists arrested for organising an illegal boycott – found guilty but no faced no charges after an appeal