Tag Archives: montgomery bus boycott

Rosa Parks and the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

1 Dec
Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: Ebony Magazine

December 1, 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott, a pivotal event in the history of the Civil Rights movement, began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955. She was arrested, sparking a year long boycott and protest, and a Supreme Court case which ended segregation on public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama.

Ms. Parks had been active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) throughout the 1940’s and the incident in 1955 was not the first time she had objected to the segregated bus laws. It wasn’t until 1955 that she was arrested, and this incident brought Ms. Parks to national prominence as well as a local preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. Both went on to play major roles in the Civil Rights movement.

Rosa Parks was interviewed by Blackside for “Eyes on the Prize” in 1985. In this interview she gives a very detailed history of her previous interactions with various Montgomery bus drivers, the oppressive atmosphere for African-Americans in the South at that time, and how the boycott unfolded after December 1, 1955.

The full interview can be read via the Film and Media Archive’s website. This interview was preserved as part of a grant from the Mellon Foundation and will be digitized as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

From the interview:

And when he saw me still sitting, and that had left the three seats vacant, except where I was, he asked me if I was going to stand up and I said, no I’m not. And he said, well, if you, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you, call the police and have you arrested. I said you may do that. And he did get off the bus and stayed for a few minutes and I still stayed where I was and when two policemen came on the bus, the driver pointed me out and he said that he needed the seats and other three stood, that one, he just said that one would not. And when the policeman approached me one of them spoke and asked me if the bus driver had asked me to stand and I said yes. He said, why don’t you stand up? I said, I don’t think I should have to stand up. And I asked him, why do you push us around? He said, I do not know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

— Rosa Parks

Blackside interviewed other people who were involved with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, including E.D. Nixon, Jo Ann Robinson and Ralph Abernathy. More interviews can be found here: Eyes on the Prize Interviews, The Complete Series.

For more information about any of these interviews, please contact the Film and Media Archive.

 

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Rosa Parks’ Centennial Celebrations

1 Feb
Rosa Parks in "Eyes on the Prize"

Rosa Parks in “Eyes on the Prize”

This year marks the centennial of Rosa Parks’ birth, and there are several celebrations and commemorative events planned. Rosa Parks’ act of refusing to give up her bus seat to a white customer on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama sparked the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that culminated in a Supreme Court case outlawing segregation on public transportation.

At times Rosa Parks is portrayed as someone who was just “tired” and her refusing to move was simply a physical act. In fact, Parks had been secretary for the local branch of the NAACP since 1943, she had attended workshops at the Highlander Folk School (now the Highlander Research and Education Center), and was a politically active and aware person.

The Film & Media Archive has several primary resources relating to Rosa Parks including photos and interview transcripts. In her interview from Eyes on the Prize, which is available online in transcript form or video, Parks recalled,

It was not a matter, or me deciding that day, because for a long, over a period of time, over the years, I had had problems with the bus drivers, and this one who had me arrested on that day was the same one who had evicted me from the bus on 1943, which did not cause anything more than just a passing glance. I did have to leave the bus and find another way of transportation home or wait for another bus or walk.

At this point the driver asked us to stand up and let him have those seats and when neither, none of us moved at his first words, he said, “You all make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats”…he asked me if I was going to stand up and I said, “No I’m not.” And he said, “Well, if you, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you—call the police and have you arrested.” I said “You may do that.” And he did get off the bus and stayed for a few minutes and I still stayed where I was and when two policemen came on the bus, the driver pointed me out and he said that he needed the seats, and other three stood—that one—he just said, “That one would not.” And when the policeman approached me one of them spoke and asked me if the bus driver had asked me to stand and I said, “Yes.” He said, “Why don’t you stand up?” I said, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” And I asked him, “Why do you push us around?” He said, “I do not know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”

Interview with Rosa Parks, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 14, 1985, for Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)

As part of her centennial Rosa Parks is also being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a forever stamp design, and a statue of her will be installed in Statuary Hall in Capitol Hill to be revealed in late 2013.

Ten Freedom Summers

14 Dec

Jazz musician Wadada Leo Smith has released a work inspired by the civil rights movement which spans four disks. The nineteen compositions of this ambitious work were created over thirty-five years and Smith has said of the piece, “Ten Freedom Summers is one of my life’s defining works.”

Wadada Leo Smith has accomplished in musical form what Henry Hampton did in his documentaries Eyes on the Prize I and II. The piece linked above, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 381 Days,” is inspired by one of the defining moments from the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Other song titles reflect different pivotal moments also depicted in Eyes on the Prize: Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless, Black Church, Freedom Summer: Voter Registration, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Freedom Riders Ride, Medgar Evers: A Love-Voice of a Thousand Years’ Journey for Liberty and Justice, The Little Rock Nine: A Force for Desegregation in Education, 1957, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, The Prophecy.

Those titles are not an exhaustive list as Smith also has compositions influenced and inspired by Dred Scott, Malcolm X (Malik Al Shabazz and the People of the Shahada), the Space Age, and the events on September 11, 2001. The titles reflect an epic historical journey whose guiding through-line is the civil rights movement, but the songs expand and weave into other major events and stories from the past thirty-five years.

The music on Ten Freedom Summers is played by an orchestral ensemble whose core is made up of Smith’s Golden Quartet/Quintet ( pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer Susie Ibarra and/or drummer Pheeroan akLaaf). Additional players include the eight-piece ensemble Southwest Chamber Music and the entire work was conducted by Grammy Award-winner Jeff von der Schmidt.

The trumpeter and leader himself plays at the peak of his powers at age 70. Smith’s incorporation of the echoing atmospheric aesthetic and tone of Miles Davis in his sound over the last 15 years is now another part of his very own overall recognizable and distinct style. Smith’s sense of human spirituality serves as a grounding point in his approach of the controversial themes on Ten Freedom Summers. – All About Jazz,

Smith wrote the first piece of this work “Medgar Evers” in 1977 as an elegiac tribute to one of the fallen heroes of the movement in Mississippi. He continued composing other works till they evolved into the nineteen piece project. Speaking of the work and its place in his life, Smith has said,

“I was born in 1941 and grew up in segregated Mississippi and experienced the conditions which made it imperative for an activist movement for equality. I saw that stuff happening. Those are the moments that triggered this. It was in that same environment that I had my first dreams of becoming a composer and performer.” – Cuneiform Records

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

22 Jun

“Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” published by Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.) – 1957

The Film & Media Archive holds a copy of the very rare comic, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gathered by filmmaker Henry Hampton for the series Eyes on the Prize, it is part of the remarkable legacy of the civil rights movement that continues to have an impact today.

Printed in eye-catching colors and meant for readers of all ages the comic was published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian organization, in 1957.The story of the comic began earlier in 1955 but continued far beyond that as it was translated into numerous languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Farsi. The comic book and the philosophy of nonviolence employed by Dr. King during the civil rights movement has been distributed and employed in South America, South Africa and most recently in Egypt during the protests in Tahrir Square in 2011.

Mixing fictional and real characters it tells the story of the bus boycott in a graphic format. According to an article published by Booker Rising,

Just five months after the start of the bus boycott, a pacifist organization called the Fellowship of Reconciliation began work on the comic book. It hoped that the comic-book medium would appeal to children and adults, white and black Americans. The organization collaborated with the Al Capp Organization (creators of “L’il Abner”) on the artwork. Blacklisted comic writer Benton Resnick, who had testified at the Senate Comic Book Hearings of 1954, was hired to write the script. Though it was originally intended to focus only on King and what was thought at first to be a short-term boycott, the final comic book bears witness to the more complex history that unfolded during its two-year production process.

“Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.) – 1957

Although Dr. King and the participants of the Montgomery Bus Boycott were proponents of nonviolence, the resistance against them was violent. The comic details several acts of violence which occurred, including the bombing of several local churches including that of Rev. Graetz and Rev. Ralph Abernathy.

Mixing fact with fiction, the comic portrays a character called, “Jones” who is seen in the panel below deciding to organize a boycott in support of Rosa Parks. In reality a local activist named Jo Ann Robinson organized the boycott including the mimeographing and distribution of the notices to boycott the buses after Rosa Parks’ arrest. Robinson was interviewed for Henry Hampton’s series Eyes on the Prize, and described her role in the boycott,

I, as President of the main body of the Women’s Political Council, got on the phone and I called all the officers of the three chapters. I called as many of the men who had supported us as possible and I told them that Rosa Parks had been arrested and she would be tried. They said, you have the plans, put them into operation. I called every person who was in every school and everyplace where we had planned to be at that house…have somebody at that school or wherever it was at a certain time that I would be there with materials for them to disseminate. I didn’t go to bed that night. I cut those stencils. I ran off 35,000 copies…and I distributed them. –Interview with Jo Ann Robinson for Eyes on the Prize

“Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.) – 1957

By the time the comic was published in 1957, the Bus Boycott had been successfully resolved and the civil rights movement was gaining momentum across the South. The last section of the comic has a nonviolence “handbook” or primer titled, “How the Montgomery Method Works.” The history of Gandhi’s protests and eventual victory over the British is told, and then practical steps are listed for how to conduct a nonviolent campaign.

The direct simplicity of the comic book form and the powerful message of how a minority or oppressed group can enact social change through nonviolent protest has had resonance around the globe. The comic has been translated into Spanish, Farsi, and Arabic.

Comic Alliance reported in 2011 that a version of the Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott comic had been translated and reprinted by the American Islamic CongressHAMSA initiative,

With the endorsement of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ziada [ Egypt Director of the American Islamic Congress] distributed 2,000 copies of the comic throughout the Middle East…In a recent newsletter to supporters of the American Islamic Congress, Ziada indicated that the translated Martin Luther King comic book had been identified as contributing to the air of peaceful revolution in Egypt.

The full version of the comic can be read online here.

Rosa Parks and the 55th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

1 Dec
Rosa Parks on bus

United Press photo. Location of Original: New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.

December 1, 2010 marks the 55th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott, a pivotal event in the history of the Civil Rights movement, began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955. She was arrested, sparking a year long boycott and protest, and a Supreme Court case which ended segregation on public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama.

Ms. Parks had been active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) throughout the 1940’s and the incident in 1955 was not the first time she had objected to the segregated bus laws. It wasn’t until 1955 that she was arrested, and this incident brought Ms. Parks to national prominence as well as a local preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. Both went on to play major roles in the Civil Rights movement.

Rosa Parks was interviewed by Blackside for “Eyes on the Prize” in 1985. In this interview she gives a very detailed history of her previous interactions with various Montgomery bus drivers, the oppressive atmosphere for African-Americans in the South at that time, and how the boycott unfolded after December 1, 1955.

The full interview can be read or viewed via the Film and Media Archive’s website. This interview was preserved and digitized as part of a grant from the American Film Institute (AFI).

From the interview:

And when he saw me still sitting, and that had left the three seats vacant, except where I was, he asked me if I was going to stand up and I said, no I’m not. And he said, well, if you, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you, call the police and have you arrested. I said you may do that. And he did get off the bus and stayed for a few minutes and I still stayed where I was and when two policemen came on the bus, the driver pointed me out and he said that he needed the seats and other three stood, that one, he just said that one would not. And when the policeman approached me one of them spoke and asked me if the bus driver had asked me to stand and I said yes. He said, why don’t you stand up? I said, I don’t think I should have to stand up. And I asked him, why do you push us around? He said, I do not know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

— Rosa Parks

Blackside interviewed other people who were involved with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, including E.D. Nixon, Jo Ann Robinson and Ralph Abernathy. More interviews can be found here: Eyes on the Prize Interviews, The Complete Series.

For more information about any of these interviews, please contact the Film and Media Archive.

Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: Ebony Magazine