Imagine being told you had to sit in the back of the bus because of the color of your skin. Imagine having to explain that to children.
How contrary to the ideals of what America is supposed to be.
This was the law of the American south in the 1950s. Anytime a white person wanted your seat in the front half of the bus, you had to go to the back. This was only a fraction of the series of bigoted, cruel, and Un-Christian system known as “Jim Crow” laws that had dominated the southern United States for nearly a century.
63 years ago today, Rosa parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus. She was arrested, jailed, and fined. Not only would she end up winning, but America would too.
Photo Credit: The Smithsonian
This event led to the Montgomery bus boycotts. African Americans refused to ride the busses of Montgomery for over a year, dealing a significant financial blow to the city of Montgomery. They made it clear that they would only return to the busses if they were desegregated.
For a year, they carpooled, they rode bikes, but mostly they walked. Some walked as many as 8 miles to work each way, no matter what the weather. Sometimes walkers were surrounded and beaten without mercy by men with clubs.
Photo Credit: Britannica
It would have been easy to quit, but a 26 year old minister from Atlanta came to lead them, to inspire them to stay strong, and persevere. His name was Martin Luther King Jr. He told them they owed it to the future to maintain continue the fight. He summoned strength and resilience amongst them that few are capable of. Dr. King made them understand that the fight was not about seating on a bus, but about the future of a country.
The Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery had to desegregate its busses, and after a year the African Americans were allowed to sit in the front. It was the first major victory of the civil rights movement.
The fight wasn’t over, as snipers targeted people sitting at bus stops, and those on the busses. One women was 7 months pregnant and shot while getting on the bus. Black churches were bombed, as well as the homes of black leaders. Thankfully, the protestors kept going.
The civil rights movement did not just make America better for African Americans, it made America better for all of us. Consider how much less each of our lives would be if we still lived with the belief system that ruled the American south during the Jim Crow era.
Bigotry is not just mean, it is stupid. What the bigot doesn’t understand is the person they are hurting the most is them. Bigotry excludes the Doctor, the researcher, the friend, the good neighbor, the teacher, and so many more. Exclusion makes the team weaker.
Thank you to the warriors that fought the battles inside this country to make it a better place. We should all feel lucky to be living in this time period, and enjoying the fruits of their labor.Progress is hard. It is often too slow. Thank goodness for those who have been willing to fight and suffer to make this country a better place.
Sometimes I hear people say that they “hate protestors.” Protestors in this country have given women and African Americans the right to vote. They have dramatically improved labor laws, brought young Americans home from war, and done so much more. They have continually pushed this country to live up up to the ideals it was founded upon.
Don’t hate protestors, often times they are right.
Photo Credit: The Smithsonian
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