1955: Rosa Parks ignites civil rights bus boycott on this day in history

On this 1st day of December in 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws.

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On this 1st day of December in 1955, in Montgomery AlabamaRosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws.

The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience.

“The mother of the civil rights movement,” as Rosa Parks is known, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African Americans were required to sit at the back of public buses and were also obligated to give up those seats to white riders if the front of the bus filled up.

Parks was in the first row of the black section when the white driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white man. Parks’ refusal was spontaneous but was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend.

In fact, local civil rights leaders had been planning a challenge to Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion.

Learning of Parks’ arrest, the NAACP and other African American activists immediately called for a bus boycott to be held by black citizens on Monday, December 5. Word was spread by fliers, and activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the protest.

The first day of the bus boycott was a great success, and that night the 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told a large crowd gathered at a church, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.” King emerged as the leader of the bus boycott and received numerous death threats from opponents of integration. At one point, his home was bombed, but he and his family escaped bodily harm.

The boycott stretched on for more than a year, and participants carpooled or walked miles to work and school when no other means were possible. As African Americans previously constituted 70 percent of the Montgomery bus ridership, the municipal transit system suffered gravely during the boycott.


On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama state and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On December 20, King issued the following statement: “The year old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” The boycott ended the next day. Rosa Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses.

Buy on Amazon.com – Rosa Parks is best known for the day she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. Yet there is much more to her story than this one act of defiance. In this straightforward, compelling autobiography, Rosa Parks talks candidly about the civil rights movement and her active role in it. Her dedication is inspiring; her story is unforgettable.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his nonviolent civil rights movement had won its first great victory. There would be many more to come.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005. Three days later the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.


Other Notable Events on this day in history


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Which part was orchestrated, the part where race was used as a determining factor in where to sit on a bus, or the part where good people stopped it ? And if there is a “divide and conquer” strategy currently employed, is it the police gunning down the unarmed civilians, or the people who get mad about that ?
    Racism is still a pervasive issue and to talk about it, and have the conversation is not an orchestrated divide and conquer conspiracy. It is a simple question of basic moral principle. When the owner of an NFL team states loudly, “that we cannot have the inmates running the prison” and the NFL is contracted by the US military for advertisement, then I say it is a moral outrage, and the racist will say I am race baiting. You bit the whole apple.

  2. Race baiting and accusations of it, are most commonly the defense mechanism employed by racists to deny the problem. It is systemic and layered. It starts with biased funding and development, creating boundaries and directed appropriations to wall off poor districts and of course a rise in petty crime results, then in march the police to unfairly target and incarcerate. Then the racist gloats, and says See ! When in fact, it was caused.
    Purposely and with more planning than the street variety racist is capable of comprehending. Only simple minded find confusion in simplicity.

  3. Rosa Parks is in my top five American heroes and heroines. What gall, and depravity exists in a people that they would assign seats on a bus according to race. And who will stand up ? I completely think it would be appropriate to name a mountain and a national park with a garden, at it’s base, after her. She is a Mother of equality, and an icon of simplicity in what is right. The real deal.
    The selection of which mountain, should be given solely to a group of non-government employed black women activists.

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