Baltimore AFRO-American—Dec 13, 1955
Montgomery, Ala. —-“We are tired of being humiliated by bus drivers!”
So said the Rev. J.R. King, a leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association, sponsors of a city-wide boycott against the city business.
“Those drivers talk to us like we are dogs, ordering us to get up out of our seats and give them to white passengers. Even other white passengers are not above saying:
“N…..r get up out of your seat.”
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The Rev. Mr. King told the AFRO Saturday that the passenger strike has been 85 percent effective.
“About 75 percent of the bus patronage comes from colored riders,” estimated the Rev. Mr. King. “We have figured that the bus company has been losing about $3,000 a day,” he added.
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The Boycott, which ended its first week Sunday, stemmed from the arrest and subsequent fine of Mrs. Rosa Parks a department store seamstress.
“She was arrested after a bus driver stopped the bus and ordered her to get up to give a white person a seat,” the Rev. Mr. King explained.
“The bus company got a witness who said that there were other seats available in the bus for her to sit.
“However, many other witnesses said that the bus was so crowded that colored persons were standing.”
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The Minister explained that 10 seats in every bus are reserved for white persons. Under the city ordinance, he said the drivers have the right to extend the number of white seats, provided the seats are available.
Mrs. Parks was arrested on Dec. 1. She was fined on Dec. 5. Her case has been appealed by her attorney, Fred Gray, who signed a $100 bond.
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The Rev. Mr. King told the AFRO that on Thursday the citizens met with officials of the bus lines to negotiate the boycott.
The citizens made three demands:
- That the drivers display more courtesy toward the colored rider;
- That the seating be arranged on a first-come-first served basis;
- That the company hire colored bus drivers.
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Each of the demands was rejected by the company, the minister said.
On the first point, the Rev. Mr. King revealed, the company insisted that the drivers were “always courteous.”
On the second point J.H. Bagley, manager of the company, said that it would require a change of law. “We pointed out to them that we were not asking them to violate the law requiring segregation.
“We merely wanted them to follow a policy of having the colored passengers fill the bus from the rear and the whites fill the bus from the front.
“It didn’t make sense to us to have buses operating that had colored persons standing, while so-called seats for white persons remained vacant.”
On the third point, the Rev. Mr. King quoted the bus management as stating: “We have no intention of ever hiring colored bus drivers.”
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The Rev. Mr. King said that the colored citizens are equally as emphatic.
“We have no intention of riding their buses until our demands are met, we are not going to give them our dimes to be insulted and humiliated.”
In order to make the boycott effective, the minister explained, the group has the cooperation of automobile owners, taxicab drivers and gasoline station proprietors.
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Combining their efforts to transport citizens he revealed, are 108 cab owners, a private car pool of 200 and eight filing station proprietors who are giving special discounts to auto owners transporting persons participating in the boycott.
The group, which sprang up spontaneously after the arrest of Mrs. Parks, has had two mass meetings, which were attended by more than 3,000 persons.
“We have no rules, officials or permanent structure, however, we have collected enough money to compensate the private car owners for the purchase of gas and we feel that we can continue this fight indefinitely.”
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Among the leaders of the demonstration are: E.D. Nixon, former state president of the NAACP and the man whose denial of admission at a State Democratic banquet caused Gov. G. Mennen Williams to cancel a recent speaking engagement at Birmingham; The Rev. D. Abernathy, pastor of the First Baptist Church; the Rev, Elroy Bennett, pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church, Fred B. Gray, attorney; and Charles Lankford, attorney.
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There have been five reports of shots being fired at buses, since the strike began.
“Nobody has been arrested and we feel that they might have been done by a white person trying to stir up trouble.” The minister said, adding:
“About the only incident in which a colored person has been arrested involved Fred Daniel, 19, who was charged with disorderly conduct.
“It was brought out in court that he was attempting to assist a woman across the street, when a policeman arrested him stating that he was attempting to keep her from boarding a bus. “The judge threw the case out of court.”
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The population of the city of Montgomery, Ala. is 103,525. About 45 percent of the population is colored.
Alabama State Teachers College is located there. For the most part, the principal occupation for the colored citizens is domestic service.
“The colored citizens in this town have united like they have never been before. I have never seen anything like it,” the Rev. Mr. King said.