“We want the world to know that we no longer accept the inferior position of second-class citizens

  

“We want the world to know that we no longer accept the inferior position of second-class citizenship. We are willing to go to jail, to be ridiculed, spat upon and even suffer physical violence to obtain First Class Citizenship”-Statement from Students at Barber-Scotia College, Concord, N.C., 1960Historians study the past to trace change over time and what the change means. In your response you will play the part of the historian. Rather than seeing the 1950’s and 1960’s as the beginning of the struggle for equality, you will trace that struggle back in time to either find the roots of activism or the roots of inequality people struggled against.One of the guiding principles behind all historical writing is selection and interpretation. This means the thoughtful selection of topics and questions that seem most interesting, and the responsible interpretation of sources in order to construct meaningful arguments. Therefore, it is your job to decide how you want to construct an argument, what events, people, or laws you think are critical to understanding a history of struggle for equality and, most importantly, why that example is critical to a larger argument. However, your response must be focused around a precise thesis statement that will be the “roadmap” of your paper.No outside sources are necessary or allowed, focus on the specific events, people or laws, lectures and the readings have covered. You may draw on any of the course readings up to week 4. Your response may include direct quotes but short quotations (one sentence long) or paraphrasing are preferred. Use parenthetical citations (Escobedo, pg#). Your response must be double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman or similar font, 1” margins, ~3 pages. You must underline or highlight your thesis statement. the assignment was asking you to make an argument about the years before the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s. This means look at the past and find events that seem to show the seeds or beginnings of things the 1950’s and 1960’s would fight for.Please read the assignment prompt and the requirements. No outside sourses
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III
The Decisive Arrest
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
O
n december 1, 1955, an attractive Negro seamstress, Mrs. Rosa Parks, boarded the Cleveland
Avenue bus in downtown Montgomery. She
was returning home after her regular day’s work in the
Montgomery Fair, a leading department store. Tired from
long hours on her feet, Mrs. Parks sat down in the first
seat behind the section reserved for whites. Not long after
she took her seat, the bus operator ordered her, along with
three other Negro passengers, to move back in order to accommodate boarding white passengers. By this time every
seat in the bus was taken. This meant that if Mrs. Parks
followed the driver’s command she would have to stand
while a white male passenger, who had just boarded the
bus, would sit. The other three Negro passengers immediately complied with the driver’s request. But Mrs. Parks
quietly refused. The result was her arrest.
There was to be much speculation about why Mrs.
Parks did not obey the driver. Many people in the white
community argued that she had been “planted” by the
NAACP in order to lay the groundwork for a test case, and
at first glance that explanation seemed plausible, since she
was a former secretary of the local branch of the NAACP.
30
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
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str ide towar d fr eedom
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So persistent and persuasive was this argument that it convinced many reporters from all over the country. Later on,
when I was having press conferences three times a week—
in order to accommodate the reporters and journalists who
came to Montgomery from all over the world—the invariable first question was: “Did the NAACP start the bus
boycott?”
But the accusation was totally unwarranted, as the testimony of both Mrs. Parks and the officials of the NAACP
revealed. Actually, no one can understand the action of
Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, “I
can take it no longer.” Mrs. Parks’s refusal to move back
was her intrepid affirmation that she had had enough. It
was an individual expression of a timeless longing for human dignity and freedom. She was not “planted” there by
the NAACP, or any other organization; she was planted
there by her personal sense of dignity and self-respect. She
was anchored to that seat by the accumulated indignities of
days gone by and the boundless aspirations of generations
yet unborn. She was a victim of both the forces of history
and the forces of destiny. She had been tracked down by
the zeitgeist—the spirit of the time.
Fortunately, Mrs. Parks was ideal for the role assigned
to her by history. She was a charming person with a radiant personality, soft-spoken and calm in all situations. Her
character was impeccable and her dedication deep-rooted.
All of these traits together made her one of the most respected people in the Negro community.
Only E. D. Nixon—the signer of Mrs. Parks’s bond—
and one or two other persons were aware of the arrest
when it occurred early Thursday evening. Later in the
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
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m artin luther k ing, jr .
evening the word got around to a few influential women
of the community, mostly members of the Women’s Political Council. After a series of telephone calls back and
forth they agreed that the Negroes should boycott the
buses. They immediately suggested the idea to Nixon, and
he readily concurred. In his usual courageous manner he
agreed to spearhead the idea.
Early Friday morning, December 2, Nixon called me.
He was so caught up in what he was about to say that he
forgot to greet me with the usual “hello” but plunged immediately into the story of what had happened to Mrs.
Parks the night before. I listened, deeply shocked, as he
described the humiliating incident. “We have taken this
type of thing too long already,” Nixon concluded, his
voice trembling. “I feel that the time has come to boycott
the buses. Only through a boycott can we make it clear to
the white folks that we will not accept this type of treatment any longer.”
I agreed at once that some protest was necessary, and
that the boycott method would be an effective one.
Just before calling me Nixon had discussed the idea with
Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the young minister of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church who was to become one of the
central figures in the protest, and one of my closest associates. Abernathy also felt a bus boycott was our best course
of action. So for thirty or forty minutes the three of us telephoned back and forth concerning plans and strategy. Nixon
suggested that we call a meeting of all the ministers and
civic leaders the same evening in order to get their thinking on the proposal, and I offered my church as the meeting place. The three of us got busy immediately. With the
sanction of Rev. H. H. Hubbard—president of the Baptist
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
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str ide towar d fr eedom
| 33
Ministerial Alliance—Abernathy and I began calling all
of the Baptist ministers. Since most of the Methodist ministers were attending a denominational meeting in one of
the local churches that afternoon, it was possible for Abernathy to get the announcement to all of them simultaneously. Nixon reached Mrs. A. W. West—the widow of a
prominent dentist—and enlisted her assistance in getting
word to the civic leaders.
By early afternoon the arrest of Mrs. Parks was becoming public knowledge. Word of it spread around the community like uncontrolled fire. Telephones began to ring in
almost rhythmic succession. By two o’clock an enthusiastic
group had mimeographed leaflets concerning the arrest
and the proposed boycott, and by evening these had been
widely circulated.
As the hour for the evening meeting arrived, I approached the doors of the church with some apprehension,
wondering how many of the leaders would respond to our
call. Fortunately, it was one of those pleasant winter nights
of unseasonable warmth, and to our relief, almost everybody who had been invited was on hand. More than forty
people, from every segment of Negro life, were crowded
into the large church meeting room. I saw physicians,
schoolteachers, lawyers, businessmen, postal workers,
union leaders, and clergymen. Virtually every organization of the Negro community was represented.
The largest number there was from the Christian ministry. Having left so many civic meetings in the past sadly
disappointed by the dearth of ministers participating, I was
filled with joy when I entered the church and found so
many of them there; for then I knew that something unusual was about to happen.
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
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m artin luther k ing, jr .
Had E. D. Nixon been present, he would probably have
been automatically selected to preside, but he had had to
leave town earlier in the afternoon for his regular run on
the railroad. In his absence, we concluded that Rev. L. Roy
Bennett—as president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance—was the logical person to take the chair.
He agreed and was seated, his tall, erect figure dominating
the room.
The meeting opened around seven-thirty with H. H.
Hubbard leading a brief devotional period. Then Bennett
moved into action, explaining the purpose of the gathering. With excited gestures he reported on Mrs. Parks’s resistance and her arrest. He presented the proposal that the
Negro citizens of Montgomery should boycott the buses
on Monday in protest. “Now is the time to move,” he concluded. “This is no time to talk; it is time to act.”
So seriously did Bennett take his “no time to talk” admonition that for quite a while he refused to allow anyone
to make a suggestion or even raise a question, insisting that
we should move on and appoint committees to implement
the proposal. This approach aroused the opposition of most
of those present, and created a temporary uproar. For almost forty-five minutes the confusion persisted. Voices rose
high, and many people threatened to leave if they could
not raise questions and offer suggestions. It looked for a
time as though the movement had come to an end before
it began. But finally, in the face of this blistering protest,
Bennett agreed to open the meeting to discussion.
Immediately questions began to spring up from the
floor. Several people wanted further clarification of Mrs.
Parks’s actions and arrest. Then came the more practical
questions. How long would the protest last? How would
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
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str ide towar d fr eedom
| 35
the idea be further disseminated throughout the community? How would the people be transported to and from
their jobs?
As we listened to the lively discussion, we were heartened to notice that, despite the lack of coherence in the
meeting, not once did anyone question the validity or desirability of the boycott itself. It seemed to be the unanimous
sense of the group that the boycott should take place.
The ministers endorsed the plan with enthusiasm, and
promised to go to their congregations on Sunday morning
and drive home their approval of the projected one-day
protest. Their cooperation was significant, since virtually
all of the influential Negro ministers of the city were present. It was decided that we should hold a city-wide mass
meeting on Monday night, December 5, to determine how
long we would abstain from riding the buses. Rev. A. W.
Wilson—minister of the Holt Street Baptist Church—
offered his church, which was ideal as a meeting place because of its size and central location. The group agreed that
additional leaflets should be distributed on Saturday, and
the chairman appointed a committee, including myself, to
prepare the statement.
Our committee went to work while the meeting was
still in progress. The final message was shorter than the
one that had appeared on the first leaflets, but the substance
was the same. It read as follows:
Don’t ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or
any place Monday, December 5.
Another Negro woman has been arrested and put
in jail because she refused to give up her bus seat.
Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school,
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
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m artin luther k ing, jr .
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
or anywhere on Monday. If you work, take a cab, or
share a ride, or walk.
Come to a mass meeting, Monday at 7:00 p.m., at
the Holt Street Baptist Church for further instruction.
After finishing the statement the committee began to
mimeograph it on the church machine; but since it was
late, I volunteered to have the job completed early Saturday morning.
The final question before the meeting concerned transportation. It was agreed that we should try to get the Negro taxi companies of the city—eighteen in number, with
approximately 210 taxis—to transport the people for the
same price that they were currently paying on the bus.
A committee was appointed to make this contact, with
Rev. W. J. Powell, minister of the Old Ship A.M.E. Zion
Church, as chairman.
With these responsibilities before us the meeting closed.
We left with our hearts caught up in a great idea. The
hours were moving fast. The clock on the wall read almost
midnight, but the clock in our souls revealed that it was
daybreak.
I was so excited that I slept very little that night, and
early the next morning I was on my way to the church
to get the leaflets out. By nine o’clock the church secretary had finished mimeographing the 7,000 leaflets, and by
eleven o’clock an army of women and young people had
taken them off to distribute by hand.
Those on the committee that was to contact the taxi
companies got to work early Saturday afternoon. They
worked assiduously, and by evening they had reached
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
str ide towar d fr eedom
| 37
practically all of the companies, and triumphantly reported
that every one of them so far had agreed to cooperate with
the proposed boycott by transporting the passengers to and
from work for the regular ten-cent bus fare.
Meanwhile our efforts to get the word across to the
Negro community were abetted in an unexpected way. A
maid who could not read very well came into possession
of one of the unsigned appeals that had been distributed
Friday afternoon. Apparently not knowing what the leaflet said, she gave it to her employer. As soon as the white
employer received the notice she turned it over to the local
newspaper, and the Montgomery Advertiser made the contents of the leaflet a front-page story on Saturday morning.
It appears that the Advertiser printed the story in order to
let the white community know what the Negroes were up
to; but the whole thing turned out to the Negroes’ advantage, since it served to bring the information to hundreds
who had not previously heard of the plan. By Sunday afternoon word had spread to practically every Negro citizen
of Montgomery. Only a few people who lived in remote
areas had not heard of it.
After a heavy day of work, I went home late Sunday afternoon and sat down to read the morning paper. There was
a long article on the proposed boycott. Implicit throughout
the article, I noticed, was the idea that the Negroes were
preparing to use the same approach to their problem as the
White Citizens Councils used. This suggested parallel had
serious implications. The White Citizens Councils, which
had had their birth in Mississippi a few months after the
Supreme Court’s school decision, had come into being to
preserve segregation. The councils had multiplied rapidly
throughout the South, purporting to achieve their ends
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
38 |
m artin luther k ing, jr .
by the legal maneuvers of “interposition” and “nullification.” Unfortunately, however, the actions of some of these
councils extended far beyond the bounds of the law. Their
methods were the methods of open and covert terror, brutal intimidation, and threats of starvation to Negro men,
women, and children. They took open economic reprisals
against whites who dared to protest their defiance of the
law, and the aim of their boycotts was not merely to impress their victims but to destroy them if possible.
Disturbed by the fact that our pending action was being
equated with the boycott methods of the White Citizens
Councils, I was forced for the first time to think seriously
on the nature of the boycott. Up to this time I had uncritically accepted this method as our best course of action.
Now certain doubts began to bother me. Were we following an ethical course of action? Is the boycott method
basically unchristian? Isn’t it a negative approach to the
solution of a problem? Is it true that we would be following
the course of some of the White Citizens Councils? Even
if lasting practical results came from such a boycott, would
immoral means justify moral ends? Each of these questions
demanded honest answers.
I had to recognize that the boycott method could be
used to unethical and unchristian ends. I had to concede,
further, that this was the method used so often by the
White Citizens Councils to deprive many Negroes, as well
as white persons of goodwill, of the basic necessities of life.
But certainly, I said to myself, our pending actions could
not be interpreted in this light. Our purposes were altogether different. We would use this method to give birth
to justice and freedom, and also to urge men to comply
with the law of the land; the White Citizens Councils used
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
str ide towar d fr eedom
| 39
it to perpetuate the reign of injustice and human servitude,
and urged men to defy the law of the land. I reasoned,
therefore, that the word “boycott” was really a misnomer
for our proposed action. A boycott suggests an economic
squeeze, leaving one bogged down in a negative. But we
were concerned with the positive. Our concern would not
be to put the bus company out of business, but to put justice in business.
As I thought further I came to see that what we were
really doing was withdrawing our cooperation from an
evil system, rather than merely withdrawing our economic
support from the bus company. The bus company, being
an external expression of the system, would naturally suffer, but the basic aim was to refuse to cooperate with evil.
At this point I began to think about Thoreau’s essay “Civil
Disobedience.” I remembered how, as a college student,
I had been moved when I first read this work. I became
convinced that what we were preparing to do in Montgomery was related to what Thoreau had expressed. We
were simply saying to the white community, “We can no
longer lend our cooperation to an evil system.”
Something began to say to me, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against
it is really cooperating with it.” When oppressed people
willingly accept their oppression they only serve to give
the oppressor a convenient justification for his acts. Often the oppressor goes along unaware of the evil involved
in his oppression so long as the oppressed accepts it. So in
order to be true to one’s conscience and true to God, a
righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate
with an evil system. This I felt was the nature of our ac-
King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story, Beacon Press, 2010. ProQuest
Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucsc/detail.action?docID=3118069.
Created from ucsc on 2019-07-14 21:40:37.
Copyright © 2010. Beacon Press. All rights reserved.
40 |
m artin luther k ing, jr .
tion. From this moment on I conceived of our movement
a …
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