Amos Yee

How the Montgomery Bus Boycott Succeeded

For a movement to be successful, you have to develop a road map that includes: objectives, tactics and ways to evaluate, to ensure your movement will be effective.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a turning point in the Black Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Most people would know about Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to give up her seat to a white person, which caused a wave of protests. But you might not have heard of Jo Ann Robinson, a faculty member at a college who played a key role in the boycott.

Years before the boycott, Jo Ann Robinson as a black woman, was asked to give up her bus seat, she felt humiliated and ran from the bus.

Later, she tried to write to the mayor about her concerns, telling him that 3/4s of bus rides were patronised by negroes. If the buses were boycotted, they could not operate, and more and more blacks were slowly arranging with their friends and neighbors to stop riding.

Her letter went unanswered, so she waited for the right time to initiate the boycott.

Most people might think Rosa Parks was the first person to not surrender her bus seat. That's not true, it was actually Claudette Colvin, who did it 9 months earlier. However Colvin while being arrested, swore at a police officer, and Robinson feared the community would not rally around her.

In fact, 1 more black woman after Colvin declined to surrender her seat, but still Robinson waited. Only after 9 months, when Rosa Parks, a well-respected woman in the black community, quietly refused to give up her bus seat, did Robinson start initiating the boycott.

Once Parks got arrested, Jo Ann Robinson and her team spent all night cutting out and bundling 50000 thousand flyers that called for a boycott. She then got those flyers to influential blacks across the city.

Soon, Martin Luther King Jr. heard about the oncoming boycott and released his own flyer.

The fliers all had specific calls to action. It wasn't just 'end segregation' or 'end racism'. That's too vague, people wouldn't know how to organise that in a strategic way. Instead the call was 'Don't Ride The Bus'. People knew how to do that: They rode bikes, set up carpools, or walked.

The Boycott was so successful it lasted 381 days, until the supreme court ruled to end segregation on public transport


A great article on Effective Activism: