Early Demands for Equality

Challenges and Change


Montgomery Bus Boycott

There had been civil rights actions before the Montgomery bus boycott, but the scale and length of the boycott in Montgomery caught the attention of the nation. It also marked the first large-scale victory for the civil rights movement.

CA LogoTip: A boycott is held when a group of people stop buying a business’s goods or services to force the business to change its behavior. By refusing to ride the segregated Montgomery buses, civil rights leaders hoped to convince the bus system that they could not afford to lose those riders and to desegregate the buses.Down

As you read the following paragraphs, write down some key words that describe the boycott and the boycotters.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1946 that segregation of commercial interstate bus travel was unconstitutional. However, most interstate bus terminals in the South kept their bus stations segregated throughout most of the 1950s. Also, most city bus services in the South required separate bus seating for black and white patrons. In March 1955, an African American teenager was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to move to the back of the bus. In December of that year, African American passenger Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on the bus and was arrested. Parks’ arrest sparked a massive boycott of the Montgomery bus system. Recently appointed Dexter Baptist Church pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was chosen to lead the boycott.

Inspired by the peaceful campaign for civil rights in India, King insisted that participants accept a pledge of nonviolence. He said that only love could overcome hate. For more than a year, African American workers in Montgomery walked to work or accepted rides from neighbors and friends to avoid using the buses. Those protesting in Montgomery for racial equality on city buses were hopeful that the Supreme Court would confirm their rights. They were correct. In November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of city buses was unconstitutional. The successful Montgomery bus boycott brought King to national prominence and encouraged blacks to continue to fight for their civil rights.

Now click on the Show Answer button below to check your answers.

Show AnswerAnswer:
loving, persistent, nonviolent, marching, hopeful

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Extension: Activists still boycott companies to push for change. By driving down a business’s profits, activists may convince the business that it is in its best interest to stop an unjust or unsafe practice. Activists may boycott businesses that harm the environment or treat their workers unfairly. Conduct web research to learn what boycotts are being organized in the world today.