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She kept her seat--and changed America.

In 1955, African Americans began to demand equal rights as citizens. At the time, segregation--the separation of the races--was not only the law in much of the South, but also a way of life. Blacks were not allowed to use the same public facilities as whites. Water fountains, public bathrooms, and even restaurants were marked, "For whites only," and "For colored [blacks] only."

One year earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled, in Brown v. Board of Education, that segregated schools were illegal. African Americans prepared themselves to fight segregation throughout the South. But no one knew exactly when or where the struggle for equality would begin.

The battleground soon moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where city buses were segregated. The seats in front were reserved for whites, while blacks suffered the indignity of always having to sit in the back of the bus.

It was a simple act by an ordinary woman that sparked an extraordinary movement.


Narrator A: On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black woman, boards a Montgomery city bus after working all day in a local department store. Seeing that the black section is full, Parks finds a seat in a middle row. As the bus continues with its stops, the front section, for whites, fills up. One white man is left standing.

James Blake (to Parks): Let this gentleman have your seat.

Narrator A: Rosa Parks doesn't move.

Blake: Look, woman, are you going to stand up?

Rosa Parks: No.

Blake: Then I'll have you arrested.

Narrator A: Blake calls the police. Two officers soon arrive.

Police officer (to Parks): Why didn't you stand up?

Parks: Why do you all push us around?

Police officer: I don't know, but the law is the law, and you're under arrest!

Narrator A: Parks is arrested and jailed. Hours later, E. D. Nixon, a civil rights leader, posts bond, and Parks is released.

Parks: I know I will never, never ride a segregated city bus again.

E. d. Nixon: Mrs. Parks, would you be willing to be a test case against segregation? This could be the chance we've been waiting for.

Parks: Do you think we can win?

Nixon: Yes--but we might have to appeal your case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Parks: I need to talk it over with my family. My husband and I could lose our jobs and our home--or worse. I'll let you know.

Narrator A: Word spreads about the incident. That night, Jo Ann Robinson, a professor, calls a meeting of the Women's Political Council.

Jo Ann Robinson: Did you hear about the arrest of Rosa Parks? This has gone on too long! The way to fight this is to boycott the city buses. We must make white folks understand that we will not accept this kind of treatment.

Council member: You're right. Let's put out a leaflet urging black people to stay off the buses Monday to protest Parks's arrest.

Narrator A: Rosa Parks agrees to be a test case against segregation. The next day, black ministers and civil rights leaders meet and agree to a bus boycott for Monday. Volunteers distribute thousands of leaflets urging black citizens to stay off the buses.


Narrator B: Early Monday morning, Coretta Scott King looks out her front window and sees a city bus.

Coretta Scott King: Martin, come quickly!

Martin Luther King Jr.: It's empty! The bus is empty!

Narrator B: Almost all of Montgomery's black citizens stay off the buses. That night, there is a mass meeting to decide if the boycott should continue.

King: We are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us so long that we are tired--tired of being segregated and humiliated; tired of being kicked around by the brutal feet of oppression.... If you will protest courageously, and yet with Christian love the historians will have to pause and say, "There lived a great people--a black people--who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization."

Narrator B: The crowd applauds King's words. Rosa Parks is introduced, then Reverend Abernathy speaks.

Ralph Abernathy: Here are our demands. One: Polite treatment from bus drivers; two: first-come, first-served seating, with blacks sitting from the rear forward, whites from the front; and three: the hiring of black bus drivers for routes in mostly black neighborhoods.

Nixon: All in favor, stand up.

Narrator B: The crowd rises and roars its approval. The boycott will continue.


Narrator C: Black leaders present their demands at a meeting with the allwhite Montgomery City Council.

Jack Crenshaw: The time is not right in Montgomery for hiring Negro drivers, but who can say what will happen in 10 years.

Robinson: We don't mean 10 years. We mean this year!

Crenshaw: Segregation is the law!

King: Our people have been segregated and humiliated too long!

Crenshaw: If we grant the Negroes these demands, they'll boast of victory over the white people. We will not stand for this!

Narrator C: The city rejects the demands, and the boycott continues. But a way must be found for getting people to their jobs. Black leaders organize car pools. City officials fight back by arresting car-pool drivers for real and imagined traffic offenses. There are not enough cars for everyone to ride.

Girl: Grandma, can't we take the bus just once? It's pouring down rain!

Grandmother: No, honey. I've sat in the back of enough buses. My feet are tired, but my soul is rested.


Narrator D: As the boycott drags on, King and others are threatened with violence. One evening at church...

Abernathy: Martin, come quickly! Your house has been bombed!

Narrator D: King rushes home to his wife and infant daughter.

King: Are you OK?

Coretta King: We're fine--just shaken up.

King: I want you to go to Atlanta and stay with my father. You and the baby will be safe there.

Coretta King: No. If you're staying, I'm staying.

Narrator D: An angry crowd of black neighbors has gathered outside. Some in the crowd have guns. Man 1 in Crowd: Who did this to Reverend King? Man 2 in Crowd: We have to fight back!

Narrator D: King, realizing that he must do something to prevent a riot, speaks to the crowd.

King: My wife and baby are OK. We must meet hate with love. Remember, if I am stopped, the movement will not stop, because God is with this movement. Put away your weapons. We cannot solve this problem with violence.

Narrator D: People leave peacefully.


Narrator E: In February, the city charges more than 100 black leaders with violating anti-boycott laws.

Nixon: Let's not hide from arrest. We have nothing to be ashamed of!

Narrator E: The leaders turn themselves in at the police station. King, who is out of town, surrenders the next day.

King (to police officer): Are you looking for me? Well, here I am.

Narrator E: At the trial, many black citizens testify about the humiliations they have suffered on city buses.

Fred D. Gray: Surely, sir, this shows there are grounds for the boycott.

Judge: The defendants broke the law. I find them guilty as charged.

Narrator E: The case is appealed. Donations pour in from all over the world to support the boycott. Meanwhile, the bus company loses $3,200 a day.


Narrator F: Rosa Parks's case, challenging the segregation law, gets bogged down in state court. The NAACP files a new case in U.S. District Court. In June, by a two-to-one vote, the U.S. District Court rules that segregation on Montgomery city buses is unconstitutional. But the city appeals the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the boycott continues. Then in October, a new threat arises ...

Abernathy: Martin, the city has brought a new lawsuit. It charges us with illegally running a transportation franchise without a license. If the city wins this case, we'll have to shut down the car pools. That will kill the boycott.

King: This may be the darkest hour before the dawn. We must believe that a way will be found.

Narrator F: On Nov. 13, 1956, a court hears the city's case. Suddenly, the mayor and police commissioner, and their lawyers, are called out of the room. Moments later, a reporter hands King a piece of paper.

Rex Thomas: Here is the decision you've been waiting for.

King (reading): "The U.S. Supreme Court today affirmed a decision of a special three-judge U.S. District Court in declaring Alabama's state and local laws supporting segregation on buses unconstitutional."

Abernathy: We've won! We've won!

Narrator F: The U.S. Supreme Court ruling means that Montgomery's public buses can no longer discriminate against black riders. Riders are now free to sit wherever they want.


The Montgomery Bus Boycott showed that nonviolent protest could help bring an end to segregation.

Martin Luther King Jr. went on to lead many other battles in the civil rights movement. In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1968, an assassin's bullet killed King. But the ideals he stood for live on.


James Blake, a white bus driver

Rosa Parks, a seamstress and member of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP)

Police officer

E. D. Nixon, a civil rights leader

Jo Ann Robinson, leader of the Women's Political Council at Alabama State College

* Council member

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Coretta Scott King, Dr. King's wife

Ralph Abernathy, a minister and civil rights leader

Jack Crenshaw, a white attorney for the bus lines

* Girl

* Grandmother

* Man 1 in crowd

* Man 2 in crowd

Fred D. Gray, a black attorney


Rex Thomas, a reporter

* Narrators A-F

* fictional characters
 Your Turn
 Word Match
__ 1. segregation A. refuse to use
__ 2. boycott B. illegal
__ 3. oppression C. separation
__ 4. unconstitutional D. persecution
__ 5. affirm E. declare true


1. C

2. A

3. D

4. B

5. E

1. Why did Martin Luther King Jr. urge nonviolence, even when faced with violence by others?

2. Why did the boycott succeed?


1954--U.S. Supreme Court declares segregation in schools unconstitutional.

1955--Montgomery Bus Boycott begins

1956--U.S. Supreme Court ends segregation on Alabama buses.

1957--Schools in Little Rock. Arkansas, are integrated.

1960--Students begin sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina.

1961--Freedom Riders who ride buses to protest segregated facilities in the South, are beaten by mobs.

1963--Four young black girls are killed in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombing March on Washington.

1964--Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. wins Nobel Peace Prize.

1964--President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

1968--Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated.
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Article Details
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Author:Hanson-Harding, Alexandra
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Play
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 12, 2001
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