NBC's Lester Holt revisits the story of Rosa Parks who was prepared to go to jail and fight for her rights, when she was denied a seat on the bus. Within days of her arrest Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called on black citizens to boycott public busses until demands for equal treatment were met.
Rosa Parks' Arrest Sparks Boycott
LESTER HOLT: On December 1st, 1955, less than one year after the Brown decision, an African American seamstress named Rosa Parks was arrested after she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.
Fred Gray was her lawyer at the time.
Civil Rights Attorney FRED GRAY: She came and sat in one of the seats behind the first set of seats. And of course there were three other African Americans sitting in seats in the same area. And when they got to the first stop the bus driver asked for those seats. The other three persons got up and she did not.
Rosa Parks in some respects was the ideal person to become the symbol of the civil rights movement. She was prepared to go to jail and fight for her rights.
HOLT: Within days of her arrest Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—a little known, 26-year-old pastor, who’d been in Montgomery less than a year—stood at the pulpit of a Dexter Avenue Baptist church, and there he called on black citizens to boycott public busses until demands for equal treatment were met.
Harvard Law School, CHARLES J. OGLETREE, Jr.: This small-time preacher, in this small community in Montgomery, Alabama—all of a sudden became a national figure. And people began to see something that was never believed before.
Its one thing to quietly protest issues of racial discrimination, it’s another to do it very publicly. And Martin Luther King had people walking to work.
HOLT: Rosa Parks’ defiance, and Martin Luther King’s leadership brought about something unprecedented—a mass protest from the black citizens of Montgomery.
GRAY: And while we didn’t know what it was gonna develop into; we knew when the people stayed off of the busses on December 5th, that Montgomery would never be the same.
Synopsis: In 1955, civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. Her action spurred African Americans to boycott, or refuse to ride, city buses. This boycott in turn started a successful nationwide campaign to end segregation of public buildings and buses.