Friday, December 20, 2013
Director, Hope for Peace and Justice
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zechariah 7.9-10
On December 20, 1956, the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended with the United States Supreme Court decision in Browder v. Gayle which affirmed a lower court ruling that Alabama's bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. That day, Federal marshals served city officials with the official order.
The white establishment tried to claim that the boycott had no effect since bus segregation was ended by the courts. They did not realize that the boycott empowered African Americans in Montgomery and inspired people all over the country and especially the South. It elevated Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence.
But the boycott also took its toll on those involved, especially in leadership positions. In early 1956, the homes of King and E. D. Nixon were bombed. King told the crowd who gathered, ‘‘...remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place’’. City officials obtained injunctions against the boycott in February 1956, and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case State of Alabama v. Martin Luther King, Jr
. Rosa Parks and her family eventually moved to Detroit because she was unable to find work when the boycott ended. Jo Ann Robinson and Mary Fair Burks were fired from their positions at Alabama State University in February 1960 after a student sit in at the capital. Juliette Morgan, a white ally, committed suicide due to the threats and harassment she received from the White Citizen's Council. Virginia and Clifford Durr, also white allies, lost their only income from Clifford's law practice and had to send their daughters to school in the North to protect them.
Despite all of this, none of those involved regretted their decision to support the boycott. Even the white allies who could easily have moved back to their social circles by denouncing the movement chose to stay. Many of those involved also supported other actions for civil rights. Perhaps it is impossible to see injustice and not do anything, than to live with it.
Mother God, help us to create your realm on earth. Help us to have courage to stand for justice even when it seems distant, to be patient when it is long in coming, to acknowledge what we have achieved while continuing to move forward to work for justice for all.
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