On December 5, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, supporters of the Civil Rights Movement began a thirteen-month boycott against the city's bus system as a protest against its policies of racial segregation. The boycott was lead by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and was triggered by seamstress Rosa Parks, who days earlier had been arrested for refusing to move to the back to of the bus to make room for a white passenger.
Kids for King is an educational initiative created by the Martin Luther King, Jr National Memorial in Washington, DC. This particular article for high school students presents an overview of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, followed by discussion questions. "Is it okay to break a law if you think it is wrong, or is it more important to obey the law? Do you think Rosa Parks was right to refuse to give up her seat? Can you think of other actions that do not hurt anyone but might increase visibility for something you care about?"
"Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1 December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional." For high-school and college students, this encyclopedia article from King Research and Education Institute offers hyperlinks to related articles, a complete bibliography for offline research, and a gallery of primary source documents. These documents include Rosa Park's December 1, 1955 arrest report , a "Don't Ride the Bus" leaflet (dated December 2, 1955) and a letter to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser explaining "the use of Gandhi-like tactics."
In the months before Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man, several other black women had also been arrested for similar incidents. Why was it Park's refusal that lead to the Montgomery bus boycott? Learn more about the boycott and its place in the civil rights movement in this online special published by the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper. Best click is the interactive time line (covering from 1954 to 1957) with embedded video clips.
The PBS special "Eyes on the Prize: The Story of the Movement" covers the civil rights movement by focusing on twenty-six events. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is event number two. Explore it through photos, music, video and press clippings at this website built as a companion to the TV special. Don't miss Context (what else was happening in 1956) , the Rosa Parks profile (linked from the first paragraph) and the classroom activities (click on Teachers in the left-hand nav.)
This illustrated article from USHistory.org (published by the Independence Hal Association in Philadelphia) explains Rosa Parks' role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and introduces Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was at that time a "little-known minister"), and his colleague Ralph Abernathy. "The demands they made were simple: Black passengers should be treated with courtesy. Seating should be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis, with white passengers sitting from front to back and black passengers sitting from back to front."