Category Archives: Martin Luther King, Jr

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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)

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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)

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

December 30, 1955

Montgomery Mayor W. A. Gayle urged Montgomery citizens to patronize city buses or risk losing the bus company’s business

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott

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.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott
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September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Feminism

Equal Rights Party

September 20, 1884: a group of American suffragists formed the Equal Rights Party in San Francisco, dedicated to “equal and exact justice to every class of our citizens, without distinction of color, sex, or nationality” and in support of the proposition that “the laws of the several states be so amended that women will be recognized as voters, and their property-rights made equal with that of the male population, to the end that they may become self-supporting – rather than a dependent class.”

The party nominated and ran Belva Ann Lockwood for President that year. (see March 1886)

“Battle of the Sexes”

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

September 20, 1973:  in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beat Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that they couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and that even at his age he could beat any female player. The match was a huge media event, witnessed in person by over 30,000 spectators at the Houston Astrodome and by another 50 million TV viewers worldwide. King made a Cleopatra-style entrance on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by female models. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell called the match, in which King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s achievement not only helped legitimize women’s professional tennis and female athletes, but it was seen as a victory for women’s rights in general. [NYT pdf: King defeats Riggs] (see Nov 12)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

BLACK HISTORY

US Labor History

September 20, 1891:  African American sharecroppers affiliated with the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Union go on strike for higher wages and an end to peonage in Lee County, Arkansas. By the time a white mob – led by the local sheriff – put down the strike, more than a dozen people had been killed. [TSHA article] (BH, see March 9, 1892; Labor, see Oct 31)

Emmett Till

September 20, 1955:  Judge Curtis Swango recesses the court to allow more witnesses to be found. It is the first time in Mississippi history that local law enforcement, local NAACP leaders and black and white reporters team up to locate sharecroppers who saw Milam’s truck and overheard Emmett being beaten. (see Emmett Till)

see Martin Luther King, Jr assassination attempt for more

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

September 20, 1958: Dr Aubre de L Maynard, chief of surgery at Harlem Hospital, removed a letter opener from the chest of Martin Luther King, Jr. Izola Ware Curry had stabbed King with a steel letter opener while he signed copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.  Curry also carried a fully loaded .25-calibre automatic.

In 1968, the day before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group and referred to this incident:

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

Dear Dr. King,

I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.

 And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (BH, see  Sept 27; MLK, see January 24, 1960; Curry, see March 7, 2015) (PDF NYT article: MLK stabbed)

James H Meredith

September 20, 1962: defying orders of the Federal courts, Mississippi Governor Ross R Barnett denied Meredith admission to the University of Mississippi. The Justice Department immediately obtained contempt of court citations against Dr J D Williams, university chancellor; Dr Robert B Ellis, registrar, and Dean Anthony B Lewis. (see September 25, 1962)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Vietnam

September 20, 1965: eleven U.S. warplanes were shot down over North and South Vietnam. (see Sept 25)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

September 20 Music et al

Beatles break-up

September 20, 1969: John Lennon announced to the others that he was leaving the band. (see Sept 26)

Blind Faith

September 20, 1969 – October 3, 1969: Blind Faith’s Blind Faith is the Billboard #1 album. (article about cover)

“Sugar, Sugar”

September 20 – October 17, 1969: “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the most successful song in the bubblegum rock genre. There was no actual Archies group  but a group of studio musicians who played behind the animated Archie TV characters.

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Calvin Graham

September 20, 1976: Graham again requested an honorable discharge from the Navy. (see Calvin Graham)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

TERRORISM

East Beirut, Lebanon

September 20 Peace Love Activism

September 20, 1984:  the Shi’a Islamic militant group Hezbollah, with support and direction from the Islamic Republic of Iran, carried out a suicide car bombing targeting the U.S. embassy annex in East Beirut, Lebanon. The attack killed 24 people. including 2 U.S. military. [NYT article] (see Dec 4)

Oklahoma City Explosion

September 20, 1994:  Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh rented a storage shed and began gathering supplies for the truck bomb they would use in Oklahoma City.(see April 19, 1995)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Native Americans

September 20, 1998: California made Native American Day an official state holiday. [Day’s site]  (see March 22, 1999)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Japanese Internment Camps

September 20 Peace Love Activism

September 20, 2006: The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, which had held almost 11,000 Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, was designated a National Historic Landmark on this day, to be maintained by the National Park Service. The closest town to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center is Ralston, Wyoming, with a population of less than 300 people, about 76 miles from Billings, Montana. [HM site] (see Dec 21)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

LGBTQ

September 20, 2011: the US military officially ended its policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” allowing gay and lesbian personal to publicly declare their sexual orientation. [HRC article]  (see Sept 29)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Environmental Issues

People’s Climate March

September 20, 2014: hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from around the world turned out for the massive People’s Climate March, filling the streets of midtown Manhattan with demands for global leaders take action to avert catastrophic climate change. [Huff Post article] (see Dec 17)

States sue NHTFA

September 20, 2019: two days after Trump’s announcement, California, 22 other states and several major cities filed a lawsuit in federal court against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is the division of the Department of Transportation that issued the rule revoking California’s authority.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the complaint stated that the move “exceeds NHTSA’s authority, contravenes Congressional intent, and is arbitrary and capricious, and because NHTSA has failed to conduct the analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

The NEPA, signed into law in 1970, was considered a kind of “national charter” for regulating the protection of the environment. (next EI, see Sept 25)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

 FREE SPEECH & Colin Kaepernick

September 20, 2016: in support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice, several members of Oakland Unified School District’s Honor Band took a knee while playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It happened toward the end of the song.

Band director Zack Pitt-Smith said he didn’t know until rehearsal that the band was going to kneel, saying that the idea originally came from a few students and eventually spread around. John Sasaki, a spokesperson for the school district, stated that the organization was “proud” of its students for making the decision to kneel:

“They knew that this was a controversial issue across our nation, and yet they decided to go ahead with their protest knowing it would not be well-received by some Americans.”

That evening, during his appearance on Conan, Marshawn Lynch was asked about his thoughts on Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Lynch said he’d rather see Kaepernick “take a knee than stand up, put his hands up, and get murdered.”  [East Bay Times article] (FS & CK, see Sept 21)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism

Nuclear/Chemical News

Three-Mile Island

September 20, 2019:  Three Mile Island’s single remaining reactor (Unit 1) generated its last kilowatt of energy and closed, a victim not of the anti-nuclear movement but rather of simple economics. Even though the plant is licensed to operate until 2034, Exelon Generation is ceasing operations after the state of  Pennsylvania earlier this year refused to throw the company a financial lifeline that would have kept it open. (see Oct 5)

September 20 Peace Love Art Activism
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