Following the arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955, Alabama State College faculty member Jo Ann Robinson called a meeting at Councill Hall on the Alabama State campus. In the basement of this historic campus building, Robinson joined community members and faculty in drafting a flyer calling for a complete boycott of the city-owned bus system for one day. Robinson and others made mimeographed copies of the flyer in the basement of Council Hall and distributed them throughout the city. The group was so effective in spreading the word about the December 5th boycott that ninety percent of the city's African American bus riders participated. Recognizing their potential to cripple the city bus system by withholding their patronage, a mass meeting of African American leaders and residents decided to continue the boycott in what became a 380 day boycott that ended the practice of racial segregation on city buses.


  • This historical marker was erected in 2015 and emphasizes the role of Jo Ann Robinson in planning the boycott.
    This historical marker was erected in 2015 and emphasizes the role of Jo Ann Robinson in planning the boycott.

On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks boarded a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, not knowing that this trip would become one of the most significant moments of modern American history. Eventually, a white man boarded the bus and the bus driver told all of the black passengers to move to the back. Rosa Parks refused and was soon arrested. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest against the city ordinance that prevented blacks from sitting in the front of the bus, as well as the segregation of public facilities in general. It lasted 381 days, form December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956. The boycott resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on November 13, 1956 declaring that bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. The city ordinance was soon changed, allowing blacks to sit anywhere on the bus. The boycott also resulted in the emergence of civil rights leaders, most notably Martin Luther King Jr., and the establishment of the civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in January 1957, to which King was elected its first president.

Calls for a bus boycott actually began ten years before Parks refused to give up her seat. In 1946 an organization called the Womens' Political Council, which was comprised of professional black women, petitioned the city to change its bus laws. Their demands fell on deaf ears. It was at this point that talk of a boycott began. Within the next two years, two young women—fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith—refused to get out of their seats and were arrested. However, their arrests did not spark a boycott. Park's refusal did have this effect, probably because she was an older woman and well respected in the black community. Remarkably, on the first day of the boycott, 90% of Montgomery’s black citizens stayed off the buses. 

"Civil Rights Movement." Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement.

"Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956)." The King Center. Accessed September 18,
2017. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_montgomery_bus_boycott_1955_1956.

Photo: Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons
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