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The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1956

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The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1956. Case Study. Rosa Parks. Enquiry Questions. What were the causes and consequences of the MBB? How important was the MBB in the history of the civil rights movement? How did MBB help to make Martin Luther King Junior a national figure?

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enquiry questions
Enquiry Questions
  • What were the causes and consequences of the MBB?
  • How important was the MBB in the history of the civil rights movement?
  • How did MBB help to make Martin Luther King Junior a national figure?
  • Why did Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her bus seat spark a national controversy?
the amendments
The Amendments
  • 14th Amend: “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
  • 15th Amend: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
segregated united states
Segregated United States
  • Plessy v. Ferguson: 1896 Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” did not violate 14th Amendment
  • Reinforced that blacks were inferior
brown v board of ed topeka
Brown v. Board of Ed. - Topeka
  • Linda Brown went to run down black school 21 blocks away when there was a white school 4 blocks
  • 1954 The US Supreme Court over turned Plessy v. Ferguson, ending the era of “separate, but equal”
montgomery bus boycott
Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Montgomery is the capital state of Alabama
  • 1950’s: one of the most racially segregated states
  • 70,000 white people 50,000 black
  • Jim Crow laws continued to enforce segregation in schools, transport, libraries and other public facilites

Majority of black people worked in low-paid/unskilled jobs

  • 50% of black men worked as domestic servants/labourers
  • 60% of women worked in domestic service
  • Black person’s income was half that of a white persons ($970)

1952: white woman in Montgomery accused a teenage black boy, JeremiahReeves of rape

  • Tried/convicted of rape by all-white jury
  • NAACP appealed, however Reeves was executed
  • Angered black people in Mont
  • Many black women had been murdered by white men

None convicted

  • Seen as an example of legal double standards
  • Many people thus thought that justice system in Mont discriminated agst. blacks

Segregation was a fact in every day life for blacks in Mont

  • Local law even forbid black people to play cards, dice or dominos with whites
  • Over 50 churches catered for black people
  • Leaders preached focused on spiritual needs rather than social or political reform

1955: an event involving segregation on the city’s buses was the starting point of the first organised mass movement of Black American’s in 20th century America

segregation on the buses
Segregation on the buses
  • Montgomery Law:
  • Black people sitting on buses could not sit at the front, even if the seats were unoccupied
  • First four rows reserved for whites
  • If there were no seats for the whites the blacks had to give up their seat
  • If a white person sat beside a black person, the black person had to stand

ALL bus drivers were white

  • Yet, 70% of those who used the bus were black
  • Drivers often humiliated/harassed the blacks
  • Called them ‘nigger’ or ‘ape’
  • Women in particular were singled out for abuse

Drivers made the black people pay the fare at the front, get off the bus and re-board at the back

  • They often took off without the black person
  • Seen as source of amusement for the drivers and white passengers
  • Caused deep resentment among the blacks

Those who did not obey the segregation laws were fined or imprisoned

  • 1955: young black teenager, Claudette Colvin arrested
  • Refused to give up seat to a white person
  • Tried/paid a fine
  • That same year, 18 year old Mary-LouiseSmith refused to move for white person

Claudette Colvin

  • Mary Louise Smith


  • Mood of black citizens becoming increasingly angry with segregation policies
interview with colvin
Interview with Colvin

  • Comprehension:
  • In source C who are ‘our people’?
  • List three of the most urgent needs of our people.
  • Which needs are (i) political (ii) social or (iii) economic
  • Why do they want to know ‘What is your stand on these issues?’

5. How are passenger seats assigned in Montgomery, Source B?

6. Who was responsible for separating white and black people on the bus?

7. What powers did the bus driver have?