On Wednesday, President Barack Obama honored the 55th anniversary of one of the most historic acts in the quest for civil rights in the United States.
“Rosa Parks and the many other leaders and foot soldiers in that struggle for justice championed our founding principles of freedom and equality for all, and today,” President Obama said.
“[A]s we commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I encourage all Americans to honor their legacy – the legacy of Americans who marched bravely, worked tirelessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of making our country a more perfect union,” the president added.
On December 1, 1955, 42-year-old seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger, which violated a standard policy for the city’s transit system at that time. She was later arrested for her defiant act.
As a result of the arrest and having grown tired of the South’s oppressive Jim Crow laws, local black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized one of the most successful bus boycotts in history. The protest lasted 381 days until December 20, 1956. The Montgomery bus system suffered major financial losses because the bulk of its ridership, African-Americans, were using all possible methods other than bus travel to commute.
The end of the boycott came in late 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Alabama and Montgomery laws that required segregated buses were unconstitutional.
On the 55th anniversary of the boycott’s beginning, President Obama reminded the country of how it eventually shaped many outcomes about race in America.
“The Montgomery Bus Boycott marked a turning point in American history – the moment where we began the march toward the Civil Rights Movement and the eventual outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination,” he added.