Legalizing the Fight to Freedom
As I was doing research about the Montgomery Bus Boycott for my #381Days campaign, I didn’t think of looking at the actual city codes of Montgomery, Alabama. It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned that the city ordinance was very ambiguous that I decided to look into it.
One thing many people don’t know is that Rosa Parks was not legally in the wrong for being unwilling to move from her seat. That morning, Parks was sitting in the front row of the colored section, which was largely empty. When the white section started to fill, the bus driver, James Blake, moved the ‘colored section’ sign before ordering Rosa Parks to move back.
The city code of Montgomery in 1955, chapter 6; section 10 states: “Every person operating a bus line in the city shall provide equal but separate accommodations for white people and negroes on their bus.” On the other hand, bus company policy allowed drivers to assign bus seats. So, the situation seems to have been a little ambiguous when it came to whether or not Parks was “breaking the law”.
In my last post, I mentioned that this was not the first time that Parks had encountered Blake on the bus line. In a previous incident, Parks had paid for her bus ticket at the front of the bus and tried to re-enter from the back of the bus. Before she could get on, Blake pulled off and left Parks at the stop. After this, Ms. Parks wasn’t keen to accommodate this particular bus driver.
Despite the fact that black bus passengers were in the majority at that time, there was very little courtesy given to them. The city bus line was unfair in many ways, such as:
- The City didn’t hire black bus drivers
- Drivers made them move from seats for many different reasons
- Drivers purposefully failed to make stops
- Drivers didn’t comply with the first come first serve policy
Rosa Parks is a prime example that even the smallest of gestures can lead to a bigger journey. Think about what life would be like if she hadn’t used her voice and to stand up for her principles that day. Think about what our world could be like if you stood up for what you believe today as well.
Blog 2 of a 3-part series. Read Part 1: #381Days: Honoring Rosa Parks and 65 Years Since the Montgomery Bus Boycott