Supreme Court Rules Bus Segregation Illegal

U.S. #3937e – Over 17,500 African Americans boycotted the Montgomery buses during the year-long strike.

Supreme Court Rules Bus Segregation Illegal

The Civil Rights Movement took a major step forward on November 13, 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was unconstitutional.

The path to desegregation began with Rosa Parks. Parks grew up in Alabama at a time when segregation was a way of life. She attended poorly-funded schools for black children, while the white students went to newer schools. She dropped out of high school to care for her mother and grandmother, who were both ill. Later, she earned a high school diploma – something only seven percent of African Americans were able to do at the time.

U.S. #4742 – Though Rosa Parks left Montgomery and didn’t participate in the boycott, she continued her activism in Detroit.

In 1943, Parks and her husband joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). She later became the organization’s secretary. During the summer of 1955, Parks attended the Highlander Folk School, which trained activists working for racial equality.

On December 1 of that year, Parks put her training into practice. After finishing her shift as a seamstress in a local department store, she boarded a city bus and sat in the “colored” section. When the white-only seats were filled, the driver told the passengers in Parks’s row to give up their seats. She refused to move and was arrested.

Parks was charged with disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance, even though there was no law stating a passenger was required to give up their seat if the bus was crowded. She decided to appeal the ruling. Parks later said, “There was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner.”

Black community leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize a Monday bus boycott to protest Parks’ arrest. They elected a new minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., as president. Word of the boycott spread through fliers and Sunday sermons. It rained on Monday, but African Americans held to their commitment and walked or carpooled to work and school. At a meeting Monday night, people voted unanimously to maintain the boycott. Drivers with cars transported people who ordinarily used the buses. The boycott continued, month after month.

U.S. #1771 – King emerged as a major Civil Rights leader during and after the boycott.

The appeal process progressed slowly through the Alabama courts. The bus boycott continued for over a year, severely damaging the bus company’s finances. Finally, on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama state and Montgomery city segregation laws were unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. On December 20, the court ordered the city to integrate its buses. That same day, Martin Luther King, Jr. announced that the protest was officially over and that the city’s African American citizens should return to riding the bus. Rosa Parks was one of the first to ride the desegregated buses the following day.

According to Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks provided the catalyst for change. She began a movement that led to the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s. Parks later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her work.

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11 responses to "Supreme Court Rules Bus Segregation Illegal"

11 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules Bus Segregation Illegal”

    • I agree with Richard. I’m learning so much great history and appreciate and look forward to “This day in history” every day. Thank you Mystic Stamp Co.!

  1. Can you believe we had such lawas not that long agao. I grew up in the South and recall that about a third of the way back in the bus there was a marker. On the front it said white, and colored on the other (the back). Water fountains at department stores were separated into white and colored like it would hurt to use the same. Restrooms were separated into Ladies, Gentlemen and colored. The colored restrooms never got the cleaning attention the whites did. Men were called boys and women girls. There are more insane horrors we did, but I’ll stiop for now. Thank you pioneers of the Civil Rights movement for your courage.

  2. It is so sad that there had to be a civil rights movement at all. I can’t believe that people were, and still can be, so callous and indifferent to their fellow citizens of the world. It is a sickness and an evil, but that is the way of the world and always will be, I am afraid. On a happier note, there is still much more good in the world and I will concentrate my life on that and hope that it will become contagious. Thanks Mystic for a great reminder of the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Parks, the Reverend King and all those involved during those years of change for the good in the United States.

  3. Again I appreciate the detail in which you present these mini history lessons. I have heard this story for 50 or more years now but never understood the total arrogance with which the blacks of Montgomery were treated, and what a total was the bus driver. Okay, there was a “law” that reserved some seats for whites, but to require a person already seated to move, unless I’m missing something, goes beyond all decency.

  4. This is some history I never learned in school since I graduated in 1956 but I lived through the turmoil.

    I enjoy working on world wide stamps on paper. Winter is a good time for me to spend stamping.

  5. Ms Parks was a REAL American when she voted with her boldness on the bus that day. A lot of voting is not done on ballots but with one’s attitude and actions. I would have been proud to follow her. My family was very ahead of its times being against discrimination even though we were mostly white. My mom was part Native American and my dad Jewish background. No racial comments were allowed in my house. But I was 12 when Rosa Parks made her move and not ready yet to do my part. I got to it later and always admired Ms. Parks.

  6. It proves that South Africa was not the only country that practiced ‘Apartheid’. After reading this and other similar articles, apartheid was very much a fact in the United States, especially in the South. It can be traced to the year 1619. This year the first major arrival of Africans as slaves in what would become the Thirteen Original Colonies, and then the United States of America. And remember that there is still evidence of apartheid in today’s America.


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