Home » Events/Meetings »History/Preservation »Public Transit » Currently Reading:

Sit anywhere on the bus

December 1, 2009 Events/Meetings, History/Preservation, Public Transit 1 Comment

Fifty-four years ago today a 42 year old (my current age) woman refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.   Of course the woman was Rosa Parks:

Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, December 1, 1955, triggered a wave of protest December 5, 1955 that reverberated throughout the United States. Her quiet courageous act changed America, its view of black people and redirected the course of history.  (source: rosaparks.org)

I am so grateful to her for refusing to give up her seat simply based on her race. But it wasn’t so simple:

Montgomery’s segregation laws were complex: blacks were required to pay their fare to the driver, then get off and reboard through the back door. Sometimes the bus would drive off before the paid-up customers made it to the back entrance. If the white section was full and another white customer entered, blacks were required to give up their seats and move farther to the back; a black person was not even allowed to sit across the aisle from whites. These humiliations were compounded by the fact that two-thirds of the bus riders in Montgomery were black.

Parks was not the first to be detained for this offense. Eight months earlier, Claudette Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat and was arrested. Black activists met with this girl to determine if she would make a good test case — as secretary of the local N.A.A.C.P., Parks attended the meeting — but it was decided that a more “upstanding” candidate was necessary to withstand the scrutiny of the courts and the press. And then in October, a young woman named Mary Louise Smith was arrested; N.A.A.C.P. leaders rejected her too as their vehicle, looking for someone more able to withstand media scrutiny. Smith paid the fine and was released. (Source: TIME)

We have come a long way but we still have so far to travel. We all owe Parks (and so many others) for chipping away at the walls of hate that were commonplace at that time.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Johnny says:

    Truly an epic struggle. But like the public schools, the urban bus system is now the province of the poor (and on my route, those of color). I almost always have a seat to myself until the bus is full, no one wants to sit next to the minority.


Comment on this Article: