December 1, 2018 is the 63rd anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In Ohio, it’s also Rosa Parks Day, the anniversary date of her famous arrest on December 1, 1955. We will honor the great Rosa Parks during the month of December through a social media campaign called #381Days.
The deeper story of Rosa Parks’ life was the inspiration for this campaign. The fact that she was such an educated woman that stood up for what she believed in, despite the fact that her whole world changed is pretty remarkable. Many know that when Rosa refused to move from her seat in 1955, she became an iconic face in the civil rights movement. What many don't remember is that she was intensely active in that movement as well.
Parks had a previous run in with bus driver James Blake about a year prior to the day of her arrest. Ever since then, she worked with the NAACP to fight for the rights of the African American community. Following her arrest, the Women’s Political Council called for a 1-day boycott in which they expected 60% of the black community to participate. To everyone's surprise, 90% of the black community became involved.
Due to the large percentage of the community participation, the black leaders of Montgomery called a meeting to form the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), electing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as President. At this meeting they issued a formal list of demands in which the city later refused to comply. Their initial demands did not involve changing the segregation laws, but inserting more courtesy within the existing laws. For example, hiring black bus drivers and implementing a "first come, first serve" policy where whites would fill the front of the bus and blacks would fill the back.
Responding to the denial of the demands and to keep the boycott going, the MIA created a carpool system to support the community protesters. This boycott lasted for 381 days while leaders such as E.D. Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr. suffered turmoil like death threats to themselves and their families, as well as house bombings.
We remember these strong leaders that have encouraged us and put their life on the line to stand up for what they believed in, and more importantly what is right. After the long days of the bus boycott, the buses were officially desegregated on December 21st, 1956. But the fight always continues.
Blog 1 of a 3-part series. Check back next week for Part 2.
Merrisha Dickerson, Marketing Intern
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Merrisha is a student at Northern Kentucky University. Throughout Merrisha’s internship she has worked to create content for social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for the Freedom Center. She has enjoyed learning how to communicate with different types of people in different departments around the museum and learning something new each day.