Back to December
1st of December, 1955 marked the incipient of a revolution when a black woman refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This resulted in her arrest which perpetuated into a year-long boycott of the municipal buses throughout the South beginning 5th of December. The boycott organized by the African-American community lasted until December 20, 1956, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling integrated the public transportation system.
Made by Ishita Srivastava
Jim Crow laws were State and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States. Following were some of the discriminatory practices that these laws patronized-
- African-Americans were not allowed to attend the same school, hospital, toilet or the same telephone booth.
- Inter-race marriages weren’t legal
- They weren’t permitted to vote.
- African-Americans didn’t possess the same rights or the equal access to employment.
- Their wage rate was much lower for them as compared to their white counterparts.
- They were branded as ‘Jim Crows’.
Repression had been incessantly reigning until that one day.
On the 1st of December, 1955, a courageous 42 year old black seamstress was commuting home from a long day of work at the Montgomery Fair Department Store by bus. At one point of her journey, a white man got into the bus. However, all the places in the ‘white section’ of the bus were occupied.
According to the Montgomery law, a few rows at the front of the bus were reserved for the white citizens and the rest for the ‘coloured section’ or the black citizens. The bus driver had the right to ask the black citizens to vacate the seat if one wasn’t available for the white citizens. On the other hand, the law also said that no person could be asked to give up a seat if all the seats were occupied on the bus. However, the latter was usually ignored. So the driver of the bus, James Blake asked four persons from the first row of the ‘coloured section’ to vacate the seat for the new commuter. Three of them obeyed him. One didn’t.
A 42 year old black seamstress, Rosa Parks had gone against something that one couldn’t dream of violating. Her ‘one’ action had shaken these unjust discriminatory laws to the core. Repression had been challenged. She stood for what was right. She was fearless and bold. Finally, two police officers arrested Miss Parks. As trivial as this event seems, its impact was to revolutionise the world.
After her release, Edgar Daniel Nixon contacted her. Nixon was the chapter president of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People). He convinced her to become the petitioner in a case that questioned the validity of segregation laws. They also decided to organise a boycott of the Montgomery bus on the day of Parks’ trial i.e. 5th of December. On 5th, Parks was found guilty of violating segregation laws, given a suspended sentence and fined $10 plus $4 in court costs.
Nonetheless, the participation in the boycott movement was much more than expected. Therefore, to continue the momentum, Nixon and some ministers formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The role of this association was to coordinate the boycott movement. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as its president. This boycott did not turn out to be peaceful one. Nixon ‘s and Luther King’s houses were bombed. However, no setback could break this movement. Eventually, on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. The boycott ended on 20th December as soon as the written order arrived in Montgomery.
This is how one of the most impactful boycotts in the history of the world ended. It altered the lives of thousands and was one of the most significant achievements in accomplishing equality. Parks came to be known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’ and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour in the United States in 1999. She also wrote her autobiography “Rosa Parks: My Story”, where she intrepidly writes, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Intrigued by the Indian political system, Muskaan is a MUN enthusiast, an avid debater, a dilettante baker, a history buff and a tireless blabber. A staunch believer in the principle that life is as difficult as you make it, she is the sort of person who prides herself in being an optimist. Aspiring to be Sheldon Cooper, she possess the potential of making a world record in babbling about various television series all day long.
More from this column
The Gate of Heavenly Peace 28 JUNE, 2017 Time Turner Sometimes to bring about a change and create history, all that is needed is a spark - a spark motivating you to attain what you deserve as a human, to fight against the tyranny of those in power, to unearth freedom...
COME WHAT MAY- UNCLE OSCAR 04 JUNE, 2017 Time Turner Uncle Oscar. Made by Achintya Vajpeyi The graceful gait down that star-studded path - lined with a hundred camera lenses, those exuberant cheers echoing around the course inducing a sense of accomplishment in the...
April Come She Will- Lilibet 23 APRIL, 2016 Time Turner Chaos and turmoil encompassed the Royal nation as the heavenly fog amalgamated with earthly soot blanketed its innocent citizens. The hospitals were flooded with men, women and children accompanied by masked...