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Reactions to Conviction

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests
Montgomery Bus Boycott


Moments after Judge Eugene W. Carter fined King $500 for violating an antiboycott law, a crowd of three hundred cheering supporters greeted King and his wife outside the courthouse. In an impromptu curbside press conference King expresses his faith that the verdict would be overturned on appeal and that the boycott would continue in the same spirit of nonviolent resistance. Crowd noises can be heard in the background of the recording, including an exchange reported the next day in the New York Times: after someone shouted, “You gonna ride the buses?” the crowd roared back, “No!”1 The Martin Luther King, Jr., Film Project assembled the following recordings for use in the film Montgomery to Memphis (1969).2

[King:]. . . we are right and that we have a legitimate complaint, and also we feel that one of the great glories of America is the right to protest for right, and I feel that the courts will substantiate our contention at that point, that along the way we will be justified. [recording interrupted]

[Coretta Scott King:] Do you want me to talk now to, the statement that I have to say, or you just want to get my voice in? [recording interrupted] All along I have supported my husband in this cause and at this point I feel even stronger about the cause, and whatever happens to him it happens to me. [recording interrupted]

[King:] The court reached its verdict a few minutes ago and I was convicted. The fine was five hundred dollars. Of course we are appealing the case and it will come up next in the court of appeals, and I have faith to believe that as the case is appealed and as it goes up through the higher courts, the decision will be reversed. We feel and we have felt all along that we stand under the aegis of the constitution, we feel that this protest which we are involved in is constitutional, and to deny us that right would be to deny our constitutional right as citizens of the United States of America. [recording interrupted] [noise from the crowd]

I don’t know exactly what pertinent subject would apply. [recording interrupted] We still feel that we are right and that we stand within our constitutional rights in the protest. And we still advocate nonviolence and passive resistance and still determine to use the weapon of love. Now I can say that there is no bitterness on my part as a result of the decision and I’m sure that I voice the sentiment of the more than forty thousand Negro citizens of Montgomery. We still have the attitude of love, we still have the method of passive resistance and we are still insisting, emphatically, that violence is self-defeating, that he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.

1. Wayne Phillips, “Negro Minister Convicted of Directing Bus Boycott,” New York Times, 23 March 1956. See also Anna Holden, Notes, Statements After Decision, State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr., 22 March 1956; Tom Johnson and Frank McArdle, “Court Fines King $500 on Boycott Law Charge,” Montgomery Advertiser, 23 March 1956; and “Boycott Leader Convicted, Vows Integration Fight,” Atlanta Constitution, 22 March 1956.

2. These “sync sound” recordings, originally made by Twentieth Century-Fox Movietone News and Hearst Metrotone News, are owned by the Martin Luther King, Jr., Estate. They are quarter-inch single-track tapes and consist of audio material intended to be synchronized with motion picture footage.


MMFR,INP, Montgomery to Memphis Film Research Files, In Private Hands, Sync Sound 103