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Montgomery Bus Boycott


As a theologian, Martin Luther King reflected often on his understanding of nonviolence. He described his own “pilgrimage to nonviolence” in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and in subsequent books and articles. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride, 80). Both “morally and practically” committed to nonviolence, King believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (King, Stride, 79; Papers 5:422).

Montgomery buses resume service on integrated basis; King, Ralph Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Fred Gray ride first desegregated bus

Montgomery City Lines resumes full service on all routes. King, Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Glenn Smiley are among the first passengers to seat themselves in the section formerly reserved for whites. The first act of violence involves a black woman who is slapped by a white youth as she leaves a bus. 

Bus desegregation mandate arrives; MIA ends boycott

The Supreme Court bus desegregation mandate arrives at Judge Johnson’s office. U.S. marshals deliver writs of injunction to Montgomery city officials. Judge Jones dissolves his injunction against Montgomery bus integration and rebukes the Supreme Court. Later that day, King presides over MIA meetings at Holt Street Baptist and St. John AME Churches during which attendees vote to end the boycott. 

Herbert Brownell, Jr., calls for "voluntary compliance" with desegregation ruling; Supreme Court delays hearing petitions contesting ruling

U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., meets with thirty-three U.S. district attorneys in a daylong conference at which he calls for “voluntary compliance” by carriers with the Supreme Court’s 13 November ruling. The Supreme Court delays hearing petitions from Birmingham and the state of Alabama contesting the ruling. 

Parks, Rosa

On 1 December 1955 local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This single act of nonviolent resistance helped spark the Montgomery bus boycott, a 13-month struggle to desegregate the city’s buses. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., the boycott resulted in the enforcement of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public bus segregation is unconstitutional, and catapulted both King and Parks into the national spotlight.


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