1956 June 13

Court Orders Montgomery, Alabama, Buses Desegregated


Rosa Parks is famous for launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama, bus on December 1, 1955. And although the boycott, which began on December 5, 1955, is one of the iconic events of the civil rights movement, in fact the buses were desegregated by a lawsuit that began several months earlier. The plaintiffs in the case were 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, the first person arrested, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith, and Jeanette Reese. On this day, a federal court in Alabama ordered the buses desegregated, in Browder v. Gayle, ruling that the segregated buses violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision on December 17, 1956.

The initial District Court case was heard by a three-judge panel. One of the two judges in the majority was Frank M. Johnson, one of the most famous judges in the history of the civil rights movement. Browder v. Gayle was the first of many important decisions expanding civil rights and civil liberties. For more on Judge Johnson, go to October 22, 1955; August 16, 1977; and July 23, 1999.

Learn more about “The Women Before Rosa Parks”: http://www.tolerance.org/article/browder-v-gayle-women-rosa-parks

Watch a documentary on the Montgomery bus boycotthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_VlnhfNQZE

Read: Stewart Burns, Daybreak of Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1997)

Learn more about Claudette Colvin: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_colvin_claudette_1939/

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