The Big Ten - Crucial Events in the Modern Civil Rights Movement - Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955

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"Montgomery Bus Boycott", Women Freedom Fighters, Rivers of Change, Public Domain.

The former states of the Old Confederacy developed an elaborate system of racial etiquette that was designed to subordinate blacks and strip them of the rights they had earned by way of the Union victory and a bevy of constitutional amendments and federal laws that required the protection of these rights. 

One of the things that galled white sourtherners most was having to share physical space with former slaves.  Several southern states began requiring blacks to sit apart from whites while traveling by train.  In 1896 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v Ferguson 1 that as long as the accommodations for blacks were equal to whites, segregating them was not a violation of the United States Constitution. 

The Interstate Commerce Commission, a regulatory agency of the federal government struck down a Virginia state law that allowed for such segregation in the case of Morgan v Virginia (1946). 2   The ICC ruled that segregated facilities in interstate travel were unconstitutional.  Still every southern state continued the practice.

Citizens in Montgomery, Alabama had long complained of this practice.  On December 1, 1955, black citizens in Montgomery began a boycott of the city bus system after the arrest of Mrs. Rosa Parks who refused to relinquish her seat to a white person.  The boycott lasted for more than a year and the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Gayle v Browder (1956) 3 that segregated seating on public conveyances was unconstitutional.  The Gayle case officially overturned Plessy.

Original Release: May 27, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

1) Teaching With Documents, Plessy v Ferguson, Our Documets.gov, Jun/08/1896, Jun/08/2015, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/print_friendly.php?page=&doc=52&title=Plessy+v.+Ferguson+%281896%29
2) United States Supreme Court, Morgan v Virginia , Legal Information Institute, Jun/08/2015, Jun/08/2015, https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/328/373
3) United States Supreme Court, Browder v Gale, Stetson University College of Law, Jun/08/2015, Jun/08/2015, http://www.stetson.edu/law/faculty/bickel/civilrights/media/case-digest-browder-v-gayle.pdf

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