On this day December 1, 1955

African-American Civil Rights Movement: Seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested for violating the racial segregation laws of Montgomery, Alabama.

Rosa Parks in 1955

Rosa Parks in 1955

After refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, precipitating the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Her action was not the first of its kind: Irene Morgan, in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys, in 1955, had won rulings before the Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission respectively in the area of interstate bus travel.

On the night of Rosa Parks’s arrest, Jo Ann Robinson, head of the Women’s Political Council, printed and circulated a flyer throughout Montgomery’s black community which read as follows:

“Another woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped.

Negroes have rights too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negro, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday.

We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.”

The next morning at a church meeting led by the new MIA head, King, a citywide boycott of public transit was proposed to demand a fixed dividing line for the segregated sections of the buses. Such a line would have meant that if the white section of the bus was oversubscribed, whites would have to stand; blacks would not be forced to remit their seats to whites.

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