Segregation In Southern US States Up Until 1955
In the late 1800s, there was an ideology in the Southern states of the USA, which followed the lawful principle of ‘separate but equal’; when describing the races of White and Coloured Americans.
This belief deemed that White and Coloured Americans were ‘equal’ in all facets of their lives; however, the reality was, they remained separate in all of them. This ensured racial segregation, (or separation) of coloured (African-Americans) was acceptable in all public facilities; in comparison to those of White Americans and their rights.
But what did this actually mean?
Primarily, it meant African-American people, were treated as second class citizens behind the white population in the United States. They did not have the same rights when it came to education or work. It also meant, that in public places like restaurants and diners, public transport, swimming pools, drinking fountains and even waiting rooms; African American people were not allowed to enter or use areas that White Americans could. They lived separately, and it was the law to do so until the mid 1960s when it was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that this was in fact unconstitutional to African-Americans civil rights.
December 1, 1955- Rosa Parks Is Arrested
By 1955, many people were trying to change this ideology. It wasn’t ok. But change like this doesn’t happen overnight and the views of those against it, certainly doesn’t change easily either.
On the evening of December 1st, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama; Rosa Parks, a 42 year old African American woman boarded a bus at this very stop, on her way home from work as a seamstress. At this time, it was only acceptable for white passengers to sit from the front to the middle of the bus, and coloured passengers were to sit from the back to the middle section. This middle section was a shared area, however when the bus was full; coloured passengers were asked by the drivers on many occasions to vacate their seats for white passengers to sit down.
On this evening, Rosa Parks was seated in the middle area of the bus. Four white passengers boarded the bus and as it was full on this occasion, four coloured passengers from this section, Rosa included were asked to move.
Three coloured passenegers vacated their seats. Rosa did not. She had had enough of the ‘separate but equal’ idea. She believed the Jim Crow laws to be criminal and unlawful. So she decided to not help push this cause any further, by remaining seated.
As a result, Rosa was removed from the bus. She was arrested for violating the law, and later convicted and fined. But her one act of defiance, sparked a movement that was already building in the South under Martin Luther King Jr.; leading to a year long bus boycott from December 5th, 1955; in response to the unequal treatment given to coloured passenger on bus lines. This boycott ended when the integration of passengers on buses; (where all passengers were now allowed to sit anywhere) was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Whilst Rosa Parks wasn’t the first person to make a stand against this treatment; she remains on the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement because of what she did that day; and what came from it.
December 1st, 2015 marks 60 years since the arrest of Rosa Parks and the spark of a movement that changed history and the world we know today.
For people that stood up for their rights, we will always be thankful for what you did.
And if you ever make it to Alabama, make sure you stop here and think about what this spot represents.
The Rosa Parks Bus Stop is located on Montgomery Rd, Montgomery, Alabama.