Montgomery Bus Boycott

Citation metadata

Editor: Cynthia Rose
Date: 2004
American Decades Primary Sources
From: American Decades Primary Sources(Vol. 6: 1950-1959. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Article; Excerpt; Topic overview
Pages: 8
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Page 357

Montgomery Bus Boycott

"The Rise of Negroes in Industry:
Problems … and Progress"

Magazine article

By: Clem Morgello

Date: September 12, 1955

Source: Morgello, Clem. "The Rise of Negroes in Industry: Problems … and Progress." Newsweek, September 12, 1955, 86–88.

About the Author: Clemente Frank Morgello (1923–) graduated from City College of New York and the University of Wisconsin. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for one year before joining Newsweek, where he worked from 1950 Page 358  |  Top of Article to 1975. After leaving Newsweek, he joined Dun's Review in 1976. Among other honors, he won the Gerald Loeb Award from University of Connecticut in 1972.

"Report on Montgomery a Year
After"

Newspaper article

By: Abel Plenn

Date: December 29, 1957.

Source: Plenn, Abel. "Report on Montgomery a Year After." The New York Times, December 29, 1957, 11, 36, 38.

Introduction

Segregation and discrimination existed long before the United States was formed. Racial discrimination continued after the founding of America, despite the Declaration of Independence's claim that "all men are created equal." Most African Americans were slaves, and those free were kept in a subjugated class. Most freed blacks had few rights, and some states even required blacks to leave the state immediately after emancipation.

Slavery in the United States ended formally with the Civil War (1861–1865) and the Thirteenth Amendment. However, the attitude of most whites did not change. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments promised voting rights and equal treatment, but most states of the South codified legal systems of segregation (referred to as "Jim Crow" laws)—promising "separate but equal" systems in education, theaters, and restrooms. The resulting systems were separate, but not close to equal in any respect. Many southern states spent only a small fraction on African American schools relative to schools for whites, resulting in poor educational opportunities for African Americans. African Americans had to overcome racism as a fact of life, especially in the South. African Americans were forced to ride in the back of buses, and they were only hired to perform the most menial jobs. For instance, most blacks in industry were employed as janitors.

During this whole period, African Americans fought this segregation with varying results. Civil Rights leaders staged an effective boycott of the Montgomery (Alabama) bus system in 1955, sparked by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. The bus system, economically damaged by this boycott (and influenced partly by a Supreme Court ruling holding such segregation unconstitutional) desegregated. Around this same time, African Americans were given new opportunities for employment in some industries.

Significance

In Montgomery, one year after the protest ended, individuals were riding the buses in peace, and African Americans had gained a new sense of pride in what they could accomplish. In Alabama, and across the South, the Montgomery Bus Boycott taught African Americans that if they refused to accept segregation, it did not have to exist. The boycott also informed whites as well. By adopting this attitude in the 1960s, great achievements in furthering the civil rights of African Americans were made. The violent reaction of some white Southerners to the boycott, and the lack of prosecutions for the violence, was also a pattern that was to repeat during the next decade.

African Americans moving into higher positions within industry also foreshadowed an impending change. The article points out, though, that many companies still resisted hiring African Americans, providing opportunities for individuals to discriminate. This situation did not change substantively, however, until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race or sex. The language of both articles reflects the era as well. The article discussing the hiring of African Americans notes that African Americans were not qualified for many positions. (The lack of technical training was the result of exclusion from all-white colleges and the poor funding and quality of African American high schools.) The article, though, blames the African Americans despite the injustices they faced.

The lifestyles reflected in these articles greatly changed across the nation—even in the South—in the 1960s and 1970s. Segregation was banned, education was slowly integrated, and the percentage of African Americans in industry slowly grew. With the changing education, transportation and work patterns, life in general changed. More African Americans became middle and upper class, and they started to adopt middle and upper class lifestyles, vacations and spending habits. While there still are fewer African American CEOs than there should be, the situation continues to improve.

Primary Source: "The Rise of Negroes in Industry: Problems … and Progress"

SYNOPSIS: This article notes discrimination that exists in some areas of hiring, and efforts by the Urban League to decrease this discrimination. It also profiles some African Americans who have been hired into upper-level positions.

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African Americans experienced in industrial and other tasks began to gain greater acceptance in the workplace in the 1950s. HULTON ARCHIVEGETTY IMAGES. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

African Americans experienced in industrial and other tasks began to gain greater acceptance in the workplace in the 1950s. HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

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Primary Source: "Report on Montgomery a Year After" [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: This article discusses the boycott and the reaction of whites and African Americans to the boycott after one year. The article notes the sense of self-discovery by African Americans and the continuing efforts of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which led the boycott.

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Martin Luther King, leader of a boycott against a segregated transit system, rides a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, 1956. Sitting beside him is Rev. Glenn Smiley.  BETTMANNCORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Martin Luther King, leader of a boycott against a segregated transit system, rides a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, 1956. Sitting beside him is Rev. Glenn Smiley. © BETTMANN/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

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Further Resources

BOOKS

Alderman, Ellen, and Caroline Kennedy. In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. New York: Morrow, 1991.

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.

Burns, Stewart. Daybreak of Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Hampton, Henry et al. Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement From the 1950s Through the 1980s. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.

Levy, Peter B. Documentary History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Robinson, Jo Ann Gibson, and David J. Garrow. The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987.

WEBSITES

Montgomery Bus Boycott Page. Available online at http://sobek.colorado.edu/~jonesem/montgomery.html ; website home page: http://sobek.colorado.edu (accessed March 18, 2003).

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3490201140