Category Archives: Black history

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard


 One million African-Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II.  Isaac Woodard was one of them.


Rest stop

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard


February 12, 1946: Isaac Woodard Jr. , 26, was on a Greyhound Lines bus traveling from Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia. He had just been honorably discharged from the Army as  with the rank of Sergeant.


Still in uniform, Woodard was en route to Winnsboro, South Carolina to pick up his wife and then go to New York City with her to visit his parents.


A a stop in North Carolina he asked the bus driver if there was time to use the rest room. The driver cursed and said “No.” Woodard cursed back. The driver said to go and hurry.


Woodard did.


Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Beating

The driver stopped the bus in Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina), near Aiken. He contacted the police and told them that a passenger was drunk and causing a disturbance on the bus.


The police arrived and the driver told Woodard to leave the bus. He did. The driver told the police that Woodard was the one who’d been drunk and disorderly. Woodard  tried to explain that he was neither, but the police struck Woodard with a billy club.

A struggle ensued, but other police stepped in, threatened to shoot Woodard, and he gave up. 


The police took Woodard to the town jail, knocking him out on the way, and arrested him for disorderly conduct, accusing him of drinking beer in the back of the bus with other soldiers. The repeated beatings had blinded Woodard.


Jailed, guilty, fined, hospitalized


The following morning, the police sent Woodard before the local judge, who found him guilty and fined him fifty dollars. The soldier requested medical assistance, but it took two more days for a doctor to be sent to him. Not knowing where he was and suffering from amnesia, Woodard ended up in a hospital in Aiken, South Carolina, receiving substandard medical care.


Three weeks after he was reported missing by his relatives, Woodard was discovered in the hospital. He was immediately rushed to a US Army hospital in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Though his memory had begun to recover by that time, doctors found both eyes were damaged beyond repair.


Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

NAACP

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Woodard and his mother

July 25, 1946: the NY Times reported that after a July 24 meeting at the New York headquarters of the NAACP,  “Charles Bolte, national chairman of the American Veterans Committee, Charles Klair, director of the veterans’ bureau of the CIO, Aurhtur Pearl of the Duncan Parish Post, Marican Legion, Barnard Harker of the American Jewish Congress, and representatives of the United Negro and Allied Veterans and the Hawaiian Association for Civic Unity, members of several veterans’ organizations and civic groups voted yesterday to form a committee to seek compensation for Woodard.


Waler White, the NAACP executive secretary, urged support of petitions to President Truman and the Veterans Administration to have Woodard’s case adjudicated as having happened in the line of duty as Woodard had been discharged less than 24 hours when the blinding occurred.

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Cause célèbre


Orson Wells, the well-known actor, director, and radio personality  took up Woodard’s story.


On July 28, 1946, on his popularABC radio show, Wells’s read of the deposition and followed with his own comments.   Well’s next four broadcasts continued to include comments regarding Woodard’s story.



The citizens of Aiken became incensed over Welles’s broadcasts and requested an apology.


In later broadcasts, Wells would refer to Aiken’s request, but issued no apology.


On August 6, 1946, the Aiken’s Lions Club issued a statement that read in part, “We as citizens and business men of Aiken have implicit confidence in these officials and, having been advised of the circumstances of this case, are convinced that this incident did not occur in Aiken, SC.”  (NYT abstract)

Blinded Veterans Association

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Joe Louis and Neil Scott help Isaac Woodard up a set a stairs soon after a beating left him blind. Ossie Leviness New York Daily News

August 8, 1946: more than 400 members of the Blinded Veterans Association welcomed Woodard as a member at the Association headquarters in NYC.  


A NYT article about the event reported that the NAACP had filed an application to American Red Cross on Woodard’s behalf for the injuries he received.

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Aiken exonerated


August 13, 1946: media had reported that the Woodard beating and blinding had occurred in the town of Aiken, South Carolina, On this date,  Leo M Cadison, Deputy Director of the Division of Public Information in Washington, DC sent Aiken telegram that exonerated the city from blame.  (NYT abstract)


Benefit Concert

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard


August 18, 1946:  The Amsterdam News Welfare Fund and the Isaac Woodard Benefit Committee held a concert for Woodward in Lewisohn Stadium in New York City.  The benefit included such entertainers as Orson Welles, Woody Guthrie, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Milton Berle. 20,000 attended. 


NYC Mayor o”Dwyer spoke saying, “first and foremost there must be equal protection by those entrusted with law enforcement, and here there can be no equivocation and no discrimination in treatment. Commissioner Wallander of the Police Department has recently issued a statement of policy to the police fore, again emphasizing to them this well understood policy of my administration. That directive must be observed as long as I am Mayor of New York, not only in the police, but all other departments.” (NYT abstract)


Woody Guthrie later wrote the song “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”  “so’s you wouldn’t be forgetting what happened to this famous Negro soldier less than three hours after he got his Honorable Discharge down in Atlanta….”  (lyrics from the fortune city site)

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

President Truman intevenes

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Truman’s letter to AG Tom Clark

 


September 19, 1946, NAACP Executive Secretary Walter Francis White met with President Harry S. Truman in the Oval Office to discuss the Woodard case. Gardner later wrote that when Truman “heard this story in the context of the state authorities of South Carolina doing nothing for seven months, he exploded.”


September 20, 1946: Truman wrote a letter to Attorney General Tom C. Clark demanding that action be taken to address South Carolina’s reluctance to try the case. 


Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Clark announcement

September 26, 1946: the US Department of Justice filed a criminal information in the Federal Court in Columbia, South Carolina alleging that Lynwood Shull had beaten and tortured Woodard in violation of the civil rights statute.


September 28, 1946: Shull posted a $2,000 bond  for his appearance in the United States District Court on Nov. 4.


October 2, 1946: Chief of Police Linwood Shull and several of his officers were indicted in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina. It was within federal jurisdiction because the beating had occurred at a bus stop on federal property and at the time Woodard was in uniform of the armed services. The case was presided over by Judge Julius Waties Waring.


Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Travesty of a Trial

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Judge Julius Waties Waring.

November 5, 1946: the trial ended. By all accounts, the trial was a travesty. The local U.S. Attorney charged with handling the case failed to interview anyone except the bus driver, a decision that Judge Waring, a civil rights proponent, believed was a gross dereliction of duty.


Waring later wrote of being disgusted at the way the case was handled at the local level, commenting, “I was shocked by the hypocrisy of my government…in submitting that disgraceful case….”


The defense did not perform better. When the defense attorney began to shout racial epithets at Woodard, Waring stopped him immediately. During the trial, the defense attorney stated to the all-white jury that “if you rule against Shull, then let this South Carolina secede again.” After Woodard gave his account of the events, Shull firmly denied it. He claimed that Woodard had threatened him with a gun, and that Shull had used his nightclub to defend himself. During this testimony, Shull admitted that he repeatedly struck Woodard in the eyes.


After thirty minutes of deliberation, the jury found Shull not guilty on all charges, despite his admission that he had blinded Woodard. The courtroom broke into applause upon hearing the verdict.


November 13, 1947:  Woodward had sued the Atlantic Greyhound Corporation for $50,000. On this date, a jury decided against Woodard. (NYT abstract)

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Aftermath

Such miscarriages of justice by state governments influenced a move towards civil rights initiatives at the federal level. Truman subsequently established a national interracial commission, made a historic speech to the NAACP and the nation in June 1947 in which he described civil rights as a moral priority, submitted a civil rights bill to Congress in February 1948, and issued Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 on June 26, 1948, desegregating the armed forces and the federal government.


Isaac Woodard faded into obscurity while his story and the tragic stories of many other African-Americans continued be fuel for both those seeking equality and those seeking to continue the status quo.


Woodard lived in the New York City area for the rest of his life. He died at age 73 in the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx on September 23, 1992.


He was buried with military honors at the Calverton National Cemetery (Section 15, Site 2180) in Calverton, New York.



Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard


Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
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KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

January 23, 1957

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

 Willie Edwards was 25. His wife Sarah was pregnant with their third child. Winn-Dixie had hired him as a driver just two months earlier, a job he needed not just to support his growing family, but two sisters as well.


His boss asked him if he could substitute on a route. He quickly accepted the offer, happy for the extra income.


On his way back from his evening run to Sylacauga, AL he stopped for a soda.  He turned on the truck’s dome light to read his log.


Klansmen plan

It was around 11:30 PM. Henry Alexander, Raymond Britt, Sonny Kyle Livingston Jr,  and James York sat nearby about to execute their latest terrorist act: kidnap a black man who they’d heard had said “something” to a white woman.


They walked up to Edwards’s truck, pointed a gun at him, and ordered him into their vehicle.


The men shoved and slapped him as they drove. One man pointed his gun at Mr. Edwards and threatened to castrate him. Sobbing and begging the men not to harm him, Edwards repeatedly denied having said anything to any white woman.


When the men reached the Tyler-Goodwyn Bridge, they ordered Edwards out of the car and gave a choice to him: jump or they’d shoot him.  Edwards climbed the railing of the bridge and fell 125 feet to his death.


The next morning, Edwards’s truck was found in the store parking lot, the dome light still on.  Others assumed him simply missing.  Perhaps he’d gone to California, a place he’d always wanted to go. 


Fishermen found Edwards’s decomposed body in April and Sarah officially became a widow. The police closed their missing persons case.


Sarah left Montgomery in 1961 and never returned.


Attorney General Bill Baxley

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Bill Baxley had become Alabama’s Attorney General in 1971. He considered it part of his job to try to uncover evidence of Alabama’s murderous racist past.


In 1976  Edward R. Fields— founder of the “National States’ Rights Party” and “Grand Dragon” of the New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — sent Baxley a threatening letter regarding Baxley’s policy. Baxley famously wrote back, telling Fields, “Kiss my ass.”


KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr


KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr


In a conversation with Raymond Britt, Britt told Baxley that he, Britt, had left the Klan after he and the others had killed Edwards.


On February 20, 1976 Baxley gave Britt immunity for his testimony and filed first-degree murder charges against Livingston, Alexander, and York.


Because the cause of Edwards’s death was difficult to determine,  the court twice denied the indictments.


 “Merely forcing a person to jump from a bridge does not naturally and probably lead to the death of such a person,” Judge Frank Embry ruled. 


FBI intervenes

The intervention that ended the investigation came from the FBI. It informed Baxley that Henry Alexander was their primary Klan informant in the area and asked Baxley to give him “some consideration.”


“Consideration” was something Alexander had enjoyed many times. Alabama had previously indicted Alexander for four church bombings, the bombings of two homes, and the assault of a black woman riding on a bus, He was never prosecuted.


At that point, unable to proceed with any confidence in a conviction, Baxley abandoned the case against the men and dropped all charges .


Henry Alexander’s conscience

Jimmy York died in 1979


Henry Alexander died  in 1993, but before he did he confessed and told the whole story to his wife Diane. One of the things he said was, “That man never hurt anybody. I was just running my mouth. I caused it.”


She was sickened by the story. Ashamed. “Henry lived a lie all his life, and he made me live it, too,” she said. Alexander’s family refused to believe the confession and wanted nothing to do with the revelation Diane wanted.


After Henry’s death, Diane wrote to Sarah Jean Salter who lived in Buffalo, NY.  “I hope maybe one day I can meet you to tell you face to face how sorry I am,” the letter said. “May God bless you and your family and I pray that this letter helps you somehow.” 


Later she met in person with Melinda O’Neill, Edwards’s daughter, who was three at the time of her father’s murder.


In 1997, as a result of requests by Willie Edwards’ daughter Malinda Edwards, the Alabama Department of Vital Statistics changed her father’s cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide.” (Northeastern University School of Law entry)


A 1999 Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict any of the surviving suspects for the murder of Willie Edwards Jr. (see Feb 14)


Raymond C. Britt died in December 2004


FBI re-investigation 


In September 1993, the FBI began an investigation into its own possible part in preventing a prosecution of the murder. (NYT article)


On July 9, 2013, the US Justice Department officially closed its investigation with the following statement. It is assumed that the redacted name is that of Sonny Livingston.


The State of Alabama has declined to authorize a third prosecution of XXXX, the only living subject, under Alabama law.  It should be noted that additional witnesses and subjects have died since the second grand jury declined to indict based upon insufficient evidence, and all individuals other than XXXXXX alleged to have had direct knowledge of this incident are now deceased.  Accordingly, this matter should be closed.  The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama concurs in this recommendation.  (justice.gov site)


Other Sources:

New York Times article


KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr, KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr, KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr, 

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Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

Irene Morgan

On June 3, 1946 the US Supreme Court had found 6 - 1 in favor of Irene Morgan in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia. The decision stated that segregated seating on interstate buses an "impermissible burden on interstate commerce."

Southern carriers managed to dodge the Morgan decision, however, by passing segregation rules of their own, and those rules remained outside the purview of state and federal courts because they pertained to private businesses.

Women’s Political Council

Jo Ann Robinson

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

The Women’s Political Council (WPC) of Montgomery, Alabama, was established in 1946 by Mary Fair Burks to inspire African Americans to ‘‘live above mediocrity, to elevate their thinking … and in general to improve their status as a group’ and in 1950, Jo Ann Robinson became WPC president.

As president, she began to study the issue of bus segregation, which affected the many blacks who were the majority of riders on the city system. First, members appeared before the City Commission to report abuses on the buses, such as blacks who were first on the bus being required later to give up seats for whites as buses became crowded. The commission had acted surprised, but did nothing.

In 1953  Robinson and other local black leaders met with Montomery's three commissioners and complained that the city did not hire any black bus drivers, that segregation of seating was unjust, and that bus stops in black neighborhoods were farther apart than in white ones, although blacks were the majority of the riders. 

The commissioners refused to change anything, but Robinson and other WPC members met with bus company officials on their own. The segregation issue was deflected, as bus company officials said that segregation was city and state law, but the WPC achieved a small victory, as the bus company officials agreed to have the buses stop at every corner in black neighborhoods, as was the practice in white neighborhoods. (Robinson bio)

Baton Rouge

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

On June 19, 1953,  Reverend T. J. Jemison of  Baton Rouge, La., led a boycott of the city's  bus system's segregated seating policy. They stop riding for eight days, staging what is believed to be the civil rights first bus boycott. Earlier in March,  the City Council had passed Ordinance 222, which permitted blacks to be seated on a first-come-first-served basis, but the drivers, all white, refused to comply.

On June 25, 1953, to end the boycott, the city and blacks agreed to a compromise: the two side front seats of buses were to be reserved for whites and the long rear seat was for African Americans. The remaining seats were to be occupied on a first-come-first-served basis.

Sarah Keys

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

In 1952, Women's Army Corps Sarah Keys, in uniform, was returning home from Fort Dix, NJ and refused to give up her seat. Her father, a veteran himself, encouraged her to challenge the policy.

On September 1, 1953, in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company,  Sarah Keys became the first African American to challenge "separate but equal" in bus segregation before the Interstate Commerce Commission. The initial reviewing commissioner declined to hear her case, but  on November 7  the Interstate Commerce Commission in Keys vs. Carolina Coach Company case that racial segregation on interstate buses a violation of the Interstate Commerce Act.

Rev Martin Luther King, Jr

January 24, 1954 King delivered a trial sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. On April 14,  he will accept the call to Dexter's pastorate, and on May 2 he delivered first sermon as Dexter's minister. On October 31, he officially becames pastor of Dexter.

Claudette Colvin

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

On March 2, 1955,  nine months before the Rosa Parks arrest, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a Montgomery city bus after school to head home. As it filled up, a white woman was left standing, and the bus driver ordered the 15-year-old Colvin to get up and move to the back. She refused, police were called. They dragged Colvin off the bus in handcuffs.  

On March 18, 1955, she was convicted of refusing to move to the back of the city bus and having assaulted the policeman who removed her from the vehicle. (see Claudette Colvin for full story) (NYT article)

Aurelia Browder

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

On April 19, 1955 police arrested Aurelia Browder (36 years old)  for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white rider in Montgomery, AL.

Mary Louise Smith

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

On October 21, 1955, police arrested Mary Louise Smith (age 18) for the same reason. 

Smith, along with Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald and Claudette Colvin) will be part of the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit.
Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

December 1, 1955: police arrested Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a crowded Montgomery city bus. The night of Parks’ arrest, Jo Ann Robinson called the other Women’s Political Council leaders and they agreed that this was the right time for a bus boycott. Robinson stayed up all night copying 35,000 handbills by a mimeograph machine at Alabama State College to distribute the next day. She called students and arranged to meet them at elementary and high schools in the morning. The boycott will last 381-days.
Friday 2 December 2

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

Jo Ann Robinson drove to the various Montgomery schools to drop off the handbills to the students and ask students to take them home for their parents. The handbills asked blacks to boycott the buses the following Monday, December 5, in support of Parks. By Friday night, word of a boycott had spread all over the city. That same night, local ministers and civil rights leaders held a meeting and announced the boycott for Monday. With some ministers hesitant to engage their congregations in a boycott, about half left the meeting in frustration. They decided to hold a mass meeting Monday night to decide if the boycott should continue.
Monday 5 December 1955
Rosa Parks was convicted and fined for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Martin Luther King Jr., began on this day. Most of the 50,000 African Americans living in Montgomery supported the boycott by walking, bicycling and car-pooling. The one-day boycott was so successful that the organizers met on Monday night and decided to continue. 

They created the  Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), It was under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Edgar Nixon. Jo Ann Robinson served on the group’s executive board and edited their newsletter.
Thursday 8 December 1955
Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents. 
December 17, 1955
Rev Martin Luther King, Jr and other MIA representatives met with white leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the bus dispute. The boycott, initially launched as a one-day statement of protest, had been going on for nearly two weeks at this point.
December 30, 1955
Montgomery Mayor W. A. Gayle urged Montgomery citizens to patronize city buses or risk losing the bus company's business 

January 1956

January 3, 1956: Montgomery City Lines suggested to the city commission that unless fares were doubled, it would have to shut down because it was losing as much as twenty-two cents a mile. The fare increase was approved the following day.                     

January 12, 1956: in response to the Montgomery's rejection of its most recent offer to end the boycott, the MIA executive board decidedto boycott the buses indefinitely.

January 24, 1956: Montgomery Mayor Gayle urged whites to stop offering rides to blacks who work for them.

January 26, 1956: two motorcycle policemen stopped Martin Luther King  for traveling 30 mph in a 25 mph zone. He was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and jailed. 

Ralph Abernathy arrived to bail him out; as a crowd gathered at the jail, prison officials escorted King out of the jail and drove him back to town. According to King, on this day and the previous two more than one hundred traffic citations were issued to car pool drivers. Later that evening, a group of King's friends decided to organize protection for him. Seven Montgomery Improvement Association mass meetings were held to accommodate black residents interested in hearing the story of King's arrest. King begins to get threatening phone calls.

January 30, 1956,: speaking at an afternoon meeting held after his arrest on speeding charges and following reports of MIA dissension had appeared in the press, King insisted that MIA leaders should continue the bus boycott. He told the Executive Board members of the Montgomery Improvement Association, "If we went tonight and asked the people to get back on the bus, we would be ostracized....My intimidations are a small price to pay if victory can be won,"

At 9:15 p.m., while King spoke at a mass meeting, his home was bombed. His wife and daughter were not injured. Later King addressed an angry crowd that gathered outside the house, pleading for nonviolence.

February 1956

Browder v. Gayle begun
February 1, 1956: on behalf of five African American women [Aurelia S. Browder, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Jeanette Reese] who had been mistreated on city buses, Fred D. Gray and Charles D. Langford filed a Federal District Court petition that becomes Browder v. Gayle. The Gayle named was the Mayor. The suit challenged the legality of separate seating on Montgomery’s municipal buses. 
Jeanetta Reese
February 2, 1956: Jeanetta Reese withdrew from the suit filed by Gray and Langford, explaining that she and her husband had been threatened with economic retaliation and violence.
White reaction
February 10, 1956: eleven thousand people attending a Citizens' Council rally in Montgomery cheered Mayor Gayle and Police Commissioner Sellers for their support of segregation on Montgomery buses. 

February 13, 1956: Judge Eugene Carter directed the Montgomery county grand jury to determine whether the boycott of Montgomery buses violated Alabama's anti-boycott law. 

February 18, 1956: Fred D. Gray was charged by the Montgomery Grand Jury with "unlawful appearance as an attorney" for representing Jeanetta Reese after she had withdrawn from the suit. 

February 21, 1956: a Montgomery grand jury indicted 89 leaders of the boycott, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, for violating a 1921 state statute forbidding boycotts without "just cause."

Grand jurors repudiated anti-segregation efforts in the grand jury report that accompanied the indictment. "In this state we are committed to segregation by custom and law; we intend to maintain it," the grand jury wrote. "The settlement of differences over school attendance, public transportation and other facilities must be made within those laws which reflect our way of life."

As the indicted boycott leaders surrendered themselves into custody at the police station, hundreds of African American supporters gathered outside in a show of support for their efforts to challenge racial discrimination and fight segregation in Alabama.

Of those indicted, only Dr. King was prosecuted. Despite defense evidence showing that the boycott was peaceful and that discriminatory bus service inflicted harm on the African American community, Dr. King was quickly convicted, fined $1000, and given a suspended jail sentence of one year at hard labor.

The indictment and Dr. King's conviction strengthened local African Americans' resolve to fight segregation and attracted national attention to the growing civil rights movement.

108 days after boycott began…

March 22, 1956: King was found guilty of violating the boycott statute in Montgomery, Ala. and fined $500. When he decided to appeal, the judge added 386 days of imprisonment. 

Browder v. Gayle continues

March 27, 1956: the Alabama Attorney General filed a motion urging dismissal of the Browder v. Gayle federal suit.

June 5, 1956: a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled 2-1 in Browder v Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment protections for equal treatment. The court further enjoined the state of Alabama and city of Montgomery from continuing to operate segregated buses.

Supreme Court’s final non-decision

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott
Alabama Journal November 13, 1956
November 13, 1956: the US Supreme Court declined the appeal of a US District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that had declared unconstitutional Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses, thereby ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Court affirmed the ruling by the three-judge Federal court that had held the challenged statutes "violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

December 19, 1956: federal marshals handed Montgomery Mayor Gayle official written notice that  the Montgomery buses be desegregated.

Aftermath

Snipers
December 28, 1956: the black community returned to the Montgomery buses but faced the threat of violence from some whites who resented the boycott and its results.

In a terrifying development, snipers began to target the buses soon after integrated riding commenced. On the evening of December 28, 1956, shots were fired into a desegregated bus traveling through an African American neighborhood. Rosa Jordan, a 22-year-old black woman who was eight months pregnant, was shot in both legs while sitting in the rear of the bus. She was transported to Oak Street General Hospital, but doctors were hesitant to remove a bullet lodged in her leg, fearing it could cause Jordan to give birth prematurely. She was told she would have to remain in the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy. After the bus driver and passengers were questioned at police headquarters, the bus resumed service. Less than an hour later, in approximately the same neighborhood, the bus was again targeted by snipers but no one was hit.

These shootings followed two earlier sniper attacks on Montgomery buses that occurred the week before but targeted buses carrying no passengers and resulted in no injuries. On the night of Jordan’s shooting, Montgomery Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers ordered all buses to end service for the night. The following day, three city commissioners met with a bus company official and decided to suspend all night bus service after 5:00 p.m. until after the New Year’s holiday. The curfew policy did not end until January 22, 1957.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

January 10, 1957: following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory and consultations with Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and others, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invited about 60 black ministers and leaders to Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Their goal was to form an organization to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method of desegregating bus systems across the South. In addition to Rustin and Baker, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, Rev Joseph Lowery of Mobile, Rev Ralph Abernathy of Montgomery, Rev C.K. Steele of Tallahassee, all played key roles in this meeting. 
Bombings
That same day, four black churches and two pastors' homes were bombed. All four black churches bombed - Bell Street Baptist Church, Hutchinson Street Baptist Church, First Street Baptist Church, and Mt. Olive Church - had supported the bus boycott and the targeted pastors were civil rights leaders: Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy of First Street Baptist Church who was a prominent boycott leader and proponent of desegregation and Reverend Robert Graetz, white minister of the predominantly black Trinity Lutheran Church, had actively supported the bus boycott.

January 12, 1957: Reverend Abernathy announced plans for Sunday service, telling a reporter that "despite the wreckage and broken windows we will gather as usual at our church" and offer special prayers for "those who would desecrate the house of God."

January 13, 1957: congregations held Sunday services amidst the bombed debris.

Two white men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, Raymond Britt and Sonny Livingston, were indicted in February 1957 after confessing to the bombings. An all-white jury acquitted them of all charges in May 1957, while spectators cheered.

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