There was a law in Alabama that required
persons of color to ride in the back of the bus and to give up their seat
to a white person if the bus was crowded. Why should she have to sit in the
back? Why should she have to give up
her seat just because she was colored?
That day, when the bus driver told her to move to
allow a white person to be seated, Mrs. Parks refused. She did not argue.
She simply refused to get up and move. She could have been hurt. Someone
could have shoved her or hit her. No one did. The bus driver called the
police. The police took Mrs. Parks away to jail.
It was not the first time someone had refused to
move. But it was the first time that it was someone many people knew. Mrs.
Parks had once worked as the secretary to the president of the NAACP
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.) That was an
important job. She knew a lot of people, and they knew her. They knew she
was soft-spoken and gentle and kind.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. heard that Mrs. Parks
had been arrested, he called a meeting at his church. A huge crowd
gathered to hear what he had to say. People wanted things to change, but
they were afraid. They did not want to be arrested or attacked. People
shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do. It was
just the way things were. Dr. King believed there was something
they could do. They could boycott. They could refuse to ride the buses.
That would cost the city a lot of money. The city and bus officials would
not like that.
On the morning of December 5th, not everyone, but
many people of color refused to ride the bus. They walked. They rode
mules. Those few people with cars acted as a shuttle service, taking
others to work and wherever they needed to go.
It took a long time for the boycott to work. It took 381 days.
The first change came on November 13, 1956, when the
Supreme Court ruled that Alabama's laws requiring segregation on buses -
requiring persons of color to ride in the back of the bus, and to give up
their seat in the colored section to a white person if the bus was crowded
- were illegal. At first, the Montgomery city government ignored the
Supreme Court ruling. About a month later, federal orders were
given to the city and bus company officials that gave them a choice - they
could obey the Supreme Court's ruling or they could go to jail themselves!
Many white people were glad. They wanted things to
change. But some white people were angry. During the year-long boycott,
they fought back with acts of terrorism. They threw a bomb at Dr. King's
house. His wife and baby daughter were inside. His family did escape, but
it was a terrifying thing. Every time something terrifying happened, even
when they bombed his home knowing his wife and baby daughter were inside, Dr.
King met anger with love. "We must learn to meet hate with
love," he would say. "We must learn to meet hate with
Finally, just over a year after the courageous Rosa
Parks refused to give up her seat, a very good thing happened. A few days
before Christmas, Dr. King, a black minister, and his good friend Reverend
Smiley, a white minister, sat together on the front seat of a Montgomery city bus. The battle for equal rights under the law was not won.
There were many battles ahead before the job would be done. But that was a
most special morning.
Was it planned? Even though she knew she could be
attacked and hurt, did a very brave Rosa Parks say: "I'll do it. I'll
refuse to give up my seat. If I'm arrested, I think people will be
shocked. They know I wouldn't hurt a fly. After I'm arrested, you can call
a meeting and organize your boycott." Or, did Rosa Parks bravely
decide on the spur of the moment that enough was enough? Find out from
Rosa Parks herself by clicking on the links below.