ROSA PARKS - BUS BOYCOTT

ROSA PARKS SPARKED

THE MONTGOMERY

BUS BOYCOTT 

  By Uriah J. Fields

 

How significant was Rosa Parks in the Civil Rights Movement? Like Rosa Parks, I was there (in Montgomery) during   the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

One month and one week less than fifty years ago Rosa Parks, at the age of ninety-two, recognized as the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," made her transition to that transcendent realm where she will receive higher compensation than this world could afford to give her. Mrs. Parks sparked the 381-day long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

I first met Mrs. Parks in early 1954, almost two years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott. At that time, I was a student at Alabama State College (now University) and had just been installed as pastor of the Bell Street Baptist Church in Montgomery. It was E. D. Nixon who introduced me to Mrs. Parks. He was a pulman porter, a former president of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, founder of the Democratic Progressive Association and a candidate for committeeman, an elected political office, and as such he became the first black person since Reconstructon to have his name appear on the ballot in Montgomery. A few weeks earlier, after some difficulty, I became a registered voter, and at the age of twenty-four, I was probably the youngest black voter in Montgomery. The Ku Klux klan trargeted Nixon, threw a molotov cocktail into his home and burned  crosses in his yard. Nixon knew that he would not be elected committeman of the ward where he and most black Montgomerian resided because there were only a few black voters in Montgomery and that white people were not going to vote for him. However, he demonstated that a black person could get on the ballot in Montgomery. It is because of Nixon's tremendous significance to the saga of Rasa Parks and the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that on this occasion, I have discussed him here in some detail. This can only help the reader to reflect on Mrs. Parks in perspective. In the dedication of my book, "Inside the Montgomery Bus Boycott - My Personal Story," I said that Edgar Daniel Nixon, more than any other single person, is the the one who called the people of Montgomery, not to arms, but to feet to walk, to not ride buses... ."

On page 31 and 32 of my book I write, "Rosa Parks was arrested and jailed for violating Alabama's segregation laws after she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. This incidence caused black people in Montgomery, four days later, to launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The initial plan called for the bus boyoctt to last one day but it continued for 381 days. Thursday, December 2, 1955, about 4:30 in the afternoon, Parks left the Montgomery Fair department store where she was employed as a seamstress and boarded a bus for her Cleveland Avenue route at her usual bus stop on Court Square in downtown Montgomery that would take her to her home in West Montgomery. The thirty-six psssenger bus was about two-thirds filled when it left Court Square. The passengers were seated in the traditional manner, as was practiced in Montgomery, blacks from rear toward front and whites from front toward rear. Usually about ten to fourteen seats, depending on the bus route, were reserved for white people. On this heavily traveled Cleveland Avenue route by blacks only twelve seats were reserved for whites. Sometimes seats reserved for whites would remain empty while blacks stood up. At other times blacks were required to leave their seats and give them to white passengers who boarded the bus after they were already seated, even if they had to stand up. The bus driver had full power to order a black person to move from his seat. Because of conditioning sometimes blacks would leave their seats without being asked to do so by the diver when they saw whites boarding the bus who would not have seats. Some blacks vacated their seats because they resented the white bus driver saying anything to them, let alone telling them to move from their seats. One black bus rider expressed the feeling of rage he experienced when asked by a white bus driver to move out of his seat so a white person could have it th.s way, "It make me feel like I would like to separate his head from the rest of his body!" Blacks were all too aware that a bus driver, like a policeman, had the authority that was backed-up by a legalized segregation system to give them orders, including ordering them to get off the bus before they wanted to for no justificable reason. In short, a bus driver had police power on the bus that he could use discriminatingly, in the worse sense of the meaning of the term, in dealing with black bus riders.

When the bus that Parks was on came to the second stop it picked up other passengers and when it reached the third stop, the thirty-six blacks and ten whites after a white person took the last empty seat. At that stop three white persons had boarded the bus who had no seats. The driver, J. D. Blake, asked four blacks, including Parks, to move out of their seats with the objecive of providing seats for three white bus riders. The two black women sitting across the aisles from Parks moved from their seats as did the black man sitting next to her, but she remained in her seat that was next to the window. The dirver noticed that a white man was standing up and that two white people were parallel to Parks, which was also forbidden by the practice of segregation laws. He came near Parks and asked her to move. She refused to move. He said to her, "Look woman, I told you to move. You better make it easy on yourself and move out that seat.    Are you going to stand up?" Parks replied, "No, I am not in the white section of the bus." Blake reminded her that the white section was where he said it was and that he had told her that she was in it. "Then, he added, "That's the law," as to say in the same breath, "I am the law." Further insistence of a threatening nature by the driver that she move did not cause Parks to leave her seat. Blake then notified her that she was under arrest and that she would not move until he  returned with regular Montgomery Police. Parks remained in her seat semimngly unperturbed. Blake phoned police and within minutes F. B. Day and D. M. Mixon entered that bus. Policeman Day asked Parks "Why didn't you stand up when the driver asked you to?" Parks replied, "I didn't think that there was any reason that  I should have to." She was arrested and taken to the police station where she was booked, fingerprinted, photographed and incarcerated." (pp 31-32).

E. D. Nixon accompanied by lawyer Clifford Durr, a white liberal whom he had become friendly with since having met him and his wife some years earlier when Durr served wtih the Federal Communication Commission went to the jail and Nixon paid the $100 bond to secure Park's release.

It is true, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., observed, "Mrs Parks's arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest." Nevertheless, Parks deserves much credit for the bus boycott, and King would be the first to say, if he was alive, let us bestow on her the highest honor we can offer.  In refusing to leave her seat and be arrested for violating the segregation laws of Alabama she perfomed an heroic act, notwithstanding, that she was not the first black person in Montgomery who refuse to give up her bus seat when asked by a bus driver to do so. Among those who had been arrested was Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year old student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery who was arrested on march 2, 1955, for occupying a seat in the section of the bus designated for white bus riders. On May 6th, just seven months before Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her bus seat, Judge Eugene Carter found Colvin guilty on an assault charge and fined her $10.00.

I and her pastor, Rev. H. H. Johnson, was present for her trial. Black people were hurt and displeased with the Judge's decision, but they had not expeced him to rule differently, although they had not expected him to change the charge from violating Alabama's segregation laws to assault. Following Colvin's trial business as usual continued until Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955. I was also in the court room on December 5, 1955 for the trial of Rosa Parks when Judge John B. Scott announced the verdict that she was gulity of violating Montgomery's segregation ordinance and fined her $10.00 plus $4.00 for cost of court.

But that was not all that happened on that black Monday December 5th which like black Friday that is also known as Good Friday must be viewed as Good Monday. Black people had been urged by Nixon, Jo Ann Robinson, pastors and other leaders to not ride the buses on Monday, in protest of the treatment of black bus riders received from bus drivers. That Monday blacks did not ride the buses. That afternoon the Montgomery Improvement Associatrion (MIA) was organized to provide organizational leadership for the bus boycott and address other black agenda issues. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president of the MIA and this writer (Uriah J. Fields) was elected recording secretary. There was still more to happen that Monday. That evening the first bus boycott mass meeting was held at the Holt Street Baptist Church, Rev A. W. Wilson, pastor. Several thousand people attended that meeting, spilling over into the streets.  When Parks was presented by Dr. King she receive a thunderous applause. On the resolution offered by Rev. Ralph David Abernathy the people voted unaminously to continue the one-day bus boycott until, as Abernathy put it, "other arrangements regarding the treatment of black bus riders are made."

Yes, Rosa Parks's arrest was like unto the abstraction, "the staw that broke the camel's back." And because of the leadership of Jo Ann Robinson, president of the Women's Political Council, and E. D.Nixon, the undisputed black    leader of Montgomery, their call for blacks to boycott the buses was heeded and the protest began. In different ways, Robinson and Nixon played significant roles in making the boycott a success. Nixon was elected treasurer of the MIA     on the day the organization was formed.

About a year and a week after the boycott began the Supreme Court of the United States, the same court that had in 1896 ruled in the "Plessy v Ferguson" case that the State of Louisiana had a constitutional right to practice Jim Crow,    to segregate black people riding on the train from white pepole, hence to practice legalized segregation in every other arena, ruled that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. Just days before Christmas in 1956, amid accelerated violence that included bombing six churches and two parsonages on one night, more correctly, the wee hours of the morning, including the church that I pastored, blacks returned to riding buses, this time riding ingtegrated buses. lt was the Montgomery Bus Boycott that began the modern Civil Rights Movement and continued to provide momentum into the sixties that compelled the Congress to enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act that banned racial discrimination in public accommidations, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Open Housing Act, (passed one week after Dr. King was assassinated), the latter being hardly any less needed in the North than in the South. In a certain and definite way Rosa Parks started it all. It is not an exaggeration to say this so long as we keep in perspective Rosa Parks's act that continues to manifest itself. The action she took nearly fifty years ago was the "shot that was heard around the world."

Rosa Parks, now not that you have exchange mortality for immortality and your soul is indeed free at last and for all eternity, we the people who subscribe to freedom, jusitce and equality for all, just as you did, solemnly pledge to keep you in our remembrance and cherish your legacy in the hope that it will live in pepetuity.

Rosa Parks 1913- 2005

Uriah J. Fields, a founder and originial secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association that directed the Montgomery Bus Boycott, is author of  "Inside the Montgomery Bus Boycott - My Personal Story." His latest book is  "The Saint Troubadour" (Pub. 2007). Both books can be purchased at your local bookstore or order them  On-Line        from: www.publishamerica.com or  www.amazon.com.  (Visit the "Link" page.)

Copyright 2005 and 2007 by Uriah J. Fields

 

1. An Ode to My Most

Significant Other

My Beloved Malathi. Your name, in your native India, means flower. Like a flower you were beauty par excellence. Your sudden departure from mortal life has not servered    or lessened the bond of love between us.

More than just having pleasant memories of you there is a part of you that is me, no less than the I that is me. I could have never become who I am without you. I learned from you how to love deeply. You helped me to grow and from you I learned how to serve with compassion.

Whatever I have been able to acomplish since we met and will achieve in the future will continue to be for you and me. You remain a tremendous source of inspiration for me.

Surely, you remember this song; you inspired me to write it; I use to sing it for you: "

People so seldom say I love you,

And then it's too late, and love goes away;

So when I tell you I love you it's not because

I know you'll never leave me,

Only that I wish you didn't' have to go.

Now before it's too late let me tell

you from the bottom of my heart,

I love you, I love you I love you."

And, oh how I remember you saying to me time and time again, "I love you."

The last words you said to me before your transition were,"I love you too."

Your presence and love will never depart from me. We were and will always be

Soul Mates. I cannot say to you, "Fare-the-well" or "Good-bye;"

I can only say to you, "My Beloved, Thank you for you presence and your love."

I love you eternally.

Uriah (Jay)

 

 

 

2. My Ave for Malathi

The enduring power of love that cannot be

supplanted or reduced...not even by death.

 

One year ago Malathi you made your transition.

It happened at a time when it seemed like you had

every reason to live.

You were vibrant and your life appeared to have

been filled with excitement. Indeed, it was exemplary.

For your lifestyle was the envy of others who desired,

but were not able to muster the courage, to be good

to themselves and their own best friends.

But suddenly and at the appointed time, a time

unknown, certainly to those closest to you,

maybe, even to you, or if known to you, you did

not tell us, or, could it have been we were not

listening, at least not well enough to discern the

                   truth about your reality?                          

Like a flower, which you told me that your name

means in your native India, in due season you

faded away. 

Your soul took flight, three days before your

breathless and soulless body that no longer

could contain it, not even a portion of it, was

cremated and the ashes returned to the earth

from which they came. 

Yes, for a year since you departed this mortal life,

I would not, perhaps, could not, let go of you; I

could not say farewell; I could only grieve and ache.

Now one year later I say, "My Ave for Malathi,"

not in grief but in celebration. Farewell Malathi!

Until then...until I join you in that eternal realm where

flowers do not die and where  souls live forever...

I will continue to say as I rejoice these  words I

have spoken to you many times when we looked

into each others eyes, "I love you."

"My Ave for Malathi."

Uriah (Jay)

 

3. Four Haiku

Haiku One:  Glorify Him

It's not about you the created;

It's about Him the Creator.

 

Haiku Two: Praise and Purpose

We will praise His holy name

and live for his purposes forever.

 

Haiku Three: I Love You

I love you not because I need you;

I need you because I love you.

 

Haiku Four: Perfect Peace

Lord, you are with me when my mind is

stayed on you, In your perfect peace.

 

4. Gratitude Par Excellence

{The highest acknowledgement of

gratitude is a three-word expression.}

It is one thing to say, "I have a lot to be thankful for!} 

It is another thing to say "I am blessed!"

It is best of all to say "Thank You God!"

                                                                       

5. God IS With Us, O Hallelujah

God, is with us, O hallelujah...

In His presence we live; O hallelujah...

This is our Father's world, O hallelujah...

He cares for his childen, O hallelujah...

hallelujah, hallelujah.

We are family, O hallelujah...He's our Lord.

 

"Love each other, O hallelujah...

As I have loved-- you... O hallelujah...

Do all the good you can... O hallelujah...

As long as ev'er you can, O hallelujah...

halellujah, hallelujah...

So to honor Me," O hallelujah.. I'm your God.

 

God is with us, O hallelujah...

Great is His faithfulness, O hallelujah...

He is the King of kings, O hallelujah...

He is the Lord of lords, O hallelujah...

hallelujah, hallelujah.

He is all and all, O hallelujah... He's our God.

Copyright 2007 by Uriah J. Fields

 

6. WHY? 3,834 TAPS

{I have decided to wear, in bow tie fashion, this breastplate "Why? 3,834 Taps" (or with the latest number corresponding to soldiers killed in Iraq) around my neck and on my chest, until our soldiers leave Iraq. Hegemony is not the road to peace.}

"Why? 3,834 Taps." This is the message on the breastplate that hangs around my neck like a bow tie and rests on my chest. Only the numbers change, unfortunately, much too often. The words remain the same. When I began wearing the brestplate display on Memorial Day, 2007 the number was 3,454. On Independence Day, July 4, 2007, just a few days over a month, that number was 3,588. Today, October 23, 2007, that number is 3,834.

If you have not already figured out the message, of course you have, this is the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq, a number that is already greater than the number of people who died on 9/11/01. Not incuded in this number are the wounded soldiers, a number that is seven times greater than the number of those who died. Neither does this number include the 200,000 plus Iraqis who have died in this war.

Take a moment and reflect upon the pain and misery that are being experienced espeically, by the loved ones - parents, spouses, children and friends - of these dead soldiers. Yes we honor our soldiers. Frankly, I  have not met an American who does not honor our soldiers. As a veteran of the Korean War who served in the military four years and one day how can I not honor our soldiers? To dishonor them would be to dishonor myself. Like many Americans I do not honor the behavior of those who sent our soldiers into this preemptive war in Iraq. But despite the lies we were told it is not just the President and the Congresspersons, although they must be held responsible for this war and the deaths of our soldiers, the American people are not without blame.

According to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll 87% of Evangelical Christians in May of 2003 approved of the war. However, there were many Christians, including Pope Paul II, who opposed the war. My personal poll reveals that 96% of Americans of African descent opposed going to war in Iraq. I am in that group. It should be pointed out that a few Congresspersons did not support or authorize the war, too few to be sure. But these few must be commended. Each person is require to do his/her own thinking, and act rationally and allow love to direct his/her actions. When we do these things we will refuse to support, even oppose, governmental policies that are hegemony skewed.

Yes, even though, as a practice, I do not wear labels or dislay signs, on my person, not even a cross or flag, I have decided that I will wear the breastplate banner, "Why? 3,834 Taps" (updating with the current numbers) until American soldiers leave Iraq. The information is printed on a 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 leaflet with "why?" in medium-size letters, on the top line "3,834" (or the current number of dead soldiers) in large print on the second line and "Taps" in small letters on the third or botton line. Let me say that I do not need to wear a cross to declare that I am a Christian. I have better ways of doing that. As a song says, "They will know that we are Christians by our love." Neither do I have to wear a flag to declare that I am a good American. If anyone is interested in knowing wether or not I am, listen to my story and obeserve my behavior. In the meantime, take my word for it. Presumptuous you say? Not at all. I am America.

When people ask me what does my breastplate display message mean? as often they do. I say to them, "Begin with the bottom line "Taps." Usually after a few moments of reflection they will say "That's the number of soldiers killed in Iraq." I respond "That's right." People's interest in my breastplate display mesasge gives me an opportunity to raise their awarenes or consciousness and, hopefully, challenge them to help end the needless killing in Iraq. Or, at least engage them in conversation about the Iraq War. During these conversations I let people know that I, like all Americans I know, honor our soldiers in Iraq, but I do not honor the behavior of those who sent them there. I say to them, sometimes in parahrasing these words of John Donne, "Any man's death diminshes me becase I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to  know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

If you have been challenged by reading this article you may want to join with me in wearing around your neck, "Why? 3834 Taps" as a breasplate display. Remember, unfortunately, the numbers will change from week to week and sometime day to day.  Should you decide to join me in wearing this breastplate display please be kind enough to let me know. I would really like to know your pro or con response to this article.

Thank you for caring enough to make a difference. This is my and your America. We have a right to be here. We have a right to let our voices be heard. We have a right to take right action. We have a right to pursue happiness for ourselves and to contribute to helping others in their pursuit of happiness.

 

7. You Did It, God

Who created the earth and the heavens, vegetation,

all living things, including man, the masterpiece of

Creation; The stars, moon and sun.

You did it, God.

 

Who saved me and made me whole, gave me a new

name, a new song to sing, and a life to proclaim

Jesus Christ as my Savior, My Lord, and My God?

You did it, God.

 

Who showered the earth with rain, graced it with

wind, caused thunder to roar, lightning to flash,

mountains to tremble and sea overflow?

You did it, God.

 

When I observe nature and the beauty that

surrounds me And feel the spirit moving within

me, I rejoice and praise Him as I proudly declare,

You did it, God.

 

(Refrain: Sing after each stanza or only after the last stanza)

It's not what I did; It's what you did;

You did it, God.

 

8. Good-bye For Now

(A Benediction)

We are leaving here with hearts inspired;

Our lives have been enriched.

As we depart let us shake hands...let us

shake hands...shake hands...shake hands...

Let us shake hands and bless others gathered here.

Good-bye for now, we've shared our hopes and

dreams; "We ask in faith that we may share again.

(Refrain)

The time we spent here was time well spent;

It showed us how love can meet our needs.

Good-bye for now, Let us go away rejoicing.

Good-bye for now... Let us live life in al its

fullness; Good bye. (Sing Good-bye twice.)

 

Now before we leave this hallowed place,

To go our separate ways; Let us extend

a warm embrace...a warm embrace...

embrace...embrace... Let us embrace to

to express how much we care.

God-bye for now we've learned, we've lived and

loved; We now depart better than when we came.

Copyright 2007 by Uriah J. Fields

 

 

 

Copyright 2007, by Uriah J. Fields

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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