Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycott protested segregated seating in the capital of Alabama.  On December 5 1955, four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on the bus, the black community led a large scale protest of the public transportation.  The protest lasted until Decembver 2nd 1956, when US Supreme Court ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system.  This boycott was inspired by CORE’s Journey of Reconciliation and received help from many core members in its organization and planning.



Below is an article from the Montgomery Advertiser, a local newspaper that covered many of the events of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

By Bunny Honicker
Published Date: December 5, 1955


A Negro woman was fined $10 and cost in police court here today for violation a state law requiring racial segregation on city buses.

Rosa Parks, 634 Cleveland Ave., a seamstress at a downtown store, did not testify.

Negro Atty. Fred D. Gray informed Recorder’s Court Judge John B Scott he would appeal the decision to Montgomery Circuit Court. A few minutes later, Gray signed a $100 appeal bond for his client.

Also signing the woman’s appeal bond was E. D. Nixon of Montgomery, a former state president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

Gray had entered a plea of innocent for his client, who stood silent throughout the hearing.


City Prosecutor Eugene Loe called Montgomery City Lines bus driver J.F. Blake to the stand to open the city’s case. Blake briefly told how Rosa Parks refused to move to the rear of this bus last Thursday night after he had requested her and several others to move to make room for white passengers he was taking on near the Empire Theater.

Blake said there were 22 Negroes and 14 whites seated in the 36-seat bus and that he asked several of the Negroes to move to the rear in order to equalize the seating.


At the outset, Loe moved to amend the charge against Rosa Parks, making the warrant read a violation of the state law instead of the city ordinance. Gray objected but Judge Scott allowed the amendment. The state law merely sets forth as unlawful and failure for a person to comply with the assignment or re-assignment order of a bus driver.

Gray said the law was not a city law and would not apply to his client.

Loe said the state law referred to all transportation.

Gray declined to say specifically whether the state law would be attacked as unconstitutional on appeal. But he made this suggestive comment:

“Every legal issue will be raised that I think is necessary to defend my client.”

The question of constitutionality was raised in Recorder’s Court.

Before and during the hearing Judge Scott shooed away photographers.


The steps leading into the north side of the courtroom and the sidewalk, along with the corridors leading into the east entrance of the courtroom, all were jammed with spectators and witnesses.

Meanwhile, Montgomery City Lines Manager J.H. Bagley this afternoon estimated that some 90 per cent of the Negroes were refusing to ride the buses in protest of today’s hearing.

The boycott was uncovered Saturday after thousands of unsigned circulars were reportedly being spread throughout the Negro districts in Montgomery.


Acting upon the orders of Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers that there was to be no violence today, patrolmen arrested a 19-year-old Negro youth who allegedly tried to restrain a Negro woman from getting on one of the morning buses.

Fred Daniel, 19 of 1646 Hall St., was jailed on a charge of disorderly conduct, according to Police Chief G. J. Ruppenthal. Arresting Patrolmen R. M. Hammonds and C. A. Weaver said Daniel grabbed a Negro woman by the arm about 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of Hall and Thurman and pulled her away from a City Lines bus she was attempting to board.


All Negro taxi cab operators in the city reportedly told their drivers to charge only 10 cents a head today from the hours 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. in an effort to make the bus boycott effective.

Several buses seen on downtown streets today carried nothing but white passengers from front to rear.

Several thousand Negroes use the buses on a normal day.

Police cars and motorcycles followed the buses periodically to prevent trouble after Sellers said some Negroes reported they were threatened with violence if they rode buses today.


A mass meeting of Negroes has also been scheduled tonight at the Holt Street Baptist Church to discuss “further instructions” in the “economic reprisal” campaign against the Montgomery City Bus Lines.

The circulars distributed in Negro residential districts Saturday urging the boycott today in protest to the arrest of Rosa Parks were not signed. Rev. A. W. Williams, pastor of the Negro church where the meeting is to be held, said he would not disclose “under any circumstances” the names of those who asked permission to use the church for the meeting.

He said the meeting would be open to whites as well as Negroes.

Earlier, Bagley had issued a statement saying the bus company “is sorry if anyone expects us to be exempt from any state or city law.”

In the Rosa Parks case today, the city was prepared to offer testimony from 11 witnesses. Only three, Blake and two women passengers testified. One of the women said there was an empty seat where Rosa Parks could have sat if she had moved to the rear.


By Tom Johnson
Published Date: January 10, 1956


A young white minister clad in the vestments of the Lutheran Church stood in his pulpit on a Sunday last month and calmly urged his congregation to give its fullest support to the Negro boycott of Montgomery buses.

He told of his plans to make his own car available to a “share the ride” pool organized to transport Negroes unable to afford taxis, and indicated he was about to assume an active part in the conduct of the boycott. He said: “Let’s try to make this boycott as effective as possible, because it won’t be any boycott if half of us ride the buses and half don’t ride. So if we’re going to do it, let’s make a good job of it.” Then he began his prepared sermon, “The Blessings Of God’s Covenant,” taken from the 31st chapter of Jeremiah.

Startling as they seem, Pastor Robert S. Graetz remarks fell on no shocked ears and no one stamped from the room indignantly. On the contrary, there was enthusiastic approval from the 210 members who make up the congregation of the Trinity Lutheran Church on Cleveland Avenue. It is an all-Negro congregation. Graetz is their pastor – one of only two Lutheran ministers so situated in Alabama (the other is in Birmingham).


In the days following his Dec. 4 sermon Graetz put in as much as 16 hours a day carrying on his church duties and helping to organize what was to become a crippling boycott of buses by Negroes.

Greatz hauled passengers in his new Chevrolet from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., pausing only to load or discharge passengers or to gas his car. As a member of a transportation committee, he helped organized a pool of 250 to 350 private cars and established pickup and dispatch points for transporting Negroes to and from work.

He dashed off a letter to other white ministers on his much-used mimeograph machine, acquainting them with “certain facts” concerning the boycott and concluding “Please consider this matter prayerfully and carefully, with Christian love. Our Lord said, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Some of Greatz stationery carries the biblical quotation “And the Angel of the Lord spake unto Phillip saying: ‘Arise, go toward the South.’ Acts 8:26.”

In the evenings, he attended mass meetings where boycott leaders made progress reports and passed the plate to raise money for operational expenses – mostly gasoline. The meetings are held Tuesdays and Thursday, rotating from church to church.

In short, Bob Graetz did as much as any Negro minister or layman to make the boycott effective and to rise some $7,000 to support it.