Primary Source Spotlight: Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. To coincide with her trial on December 5, 1955, the Women’s Political Council initiated a one-day citywide bus boycott. At a meeting later that evening, a vote to extend the boycott was passed. For 381 days, African Americans held strong, walking, carpooling, and taking taxis rather than city buses. In early 1956, a federal lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of bus segregation ordinances. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling that bus segregation violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. After receiving official written notice of the ruling on December 20, 1956, Montgomery’s mayor ordered the desegregation of city buses and the boycott ended. Investigate the links to primary sources and other resources below to learn more.

1955-56 U.S. newspaper coverage of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Exact spot on Dexter Avenue where Rosa Parks waited for the bus that changed history

Rosa Parks arrest photo

Rosa Parks arrest record

Rosa Park’s recollections of time spent in jail

Memorandum on taking Rosa Park’s case after her arrest

Rosa’s chronology of the bus boycott

The Montgomery Improvement Association: Notes on Transportation

Carpool Notebook

E. D. Nixon recollections of the Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks: Beyond the Bus event recording with recollections of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

More oral histories about the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Alabama Anti-Boycott Act

Program for Montgomery Bus Boycott Speaking Tour

Rosa Parks letter to her mother while traveling on behalf of the bus boycott

Tote dat barge! Lif’ dat boycott! Ride dat bus!” March 25, 1956 political cartoon (scroll down page to read curator note)

Group portrait with Rosa Parks and others, likely at an event, after the Montgomery Bus boycott

Rosa Parks sitting at a table near a civil rights exhibition featuring photographs related to the Montgomery bus boycott

More primary sources related to the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott H.Con.Res.273 December 12, 2005

The Bus Boycott Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words online exhibition

Articles and blog posts

Today in History: Rosa Parks Arrested