Timeline of the Boycott


August: After Plessy v. Ferguson allows segregation on public transportation, blacks in Montgomery boycott streetcars for two years, ending only with a new city ordinance that forbade bus drivers from compelling anyone to vacate a seat unless there was another seat open. The ordinance is enforced for the next twenty years until the fervor of the boycott gradually fades.


June 20-24: Successful bus boycott in Baton Rouge, LA leads to the enforcement of partially integrated buses. This boycott, organized by Reverend T. J. Jemison, served as a template for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Late 1953: Jo Ann Robinson, an English teacher at Alabama State College, and other black activists organize the Women’s Political Council. Members meet with City Commissioners about bus policies.


May 17: U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.


February 23: E. D. Nixon, a union leader and former president of the Alabama NAACP, organizes a political forum through the Progressive Democratic Association to question white candidates for the Montgomery city commission about their positions on bus seating policies, inadequate local black representation, and other issues concerning blacks in the upcoming election.

March 2: 15-year Claudette Colvin is arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman. During her arrest, she tells police, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here.” Since she is a pregnant, unwed teenager, though, her case is not pursued by the NAACP and other black leaders.

Mid-March: Black leaders, including E.D. Nixon, Rufus Lewis, Jo Ann Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King meet with city commissioners and bus officials in order to modify seating arrangements on city buses. Robinson mentions the possibility of a boycott after talks go badly.

May 31: U.S. Supreme Court issues an order to implement desegregation according to Brown v. Board of Education “with all deliberate speed.”

October 21: 18-year Mary Louise Smith is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman. She was fined $9.00 for failing to obey an officer who had told her to move.

Late Oct.: National City Lines of Chicago, owner of the Montgomery bus line, begins negotiations with the city to renew the franchise contract with the City.

December 1: Rosa Parks is arrested for not giving up her seat to a white passenger on the Cleveland Avenue Bus when told to by the bus driver. She is arrested and contacts E. D. Nixon who posts her bond.

Dec. 2: E. D. Nixon, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Martin Luther King create the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) to organize a meeting of ministers and civic leaders and discuss protest plans. Attendees support a non-violent approach to protest, seeking not to end segregation, but to improve conditions for African-American bus riders. The Women’s Political Council distributes leaflets calling for a one-day boycott on Dec. 5 th , after which a city-wide meeting would be held to discuss how long the boycott would last.

Dec. 5: First day of the boycott. Organizers hope for 60% participation from the African-American community. Later they speculate that participation was 90-100%. The MIA, now lead by Rev. Martin Luther King, decides to continue the boycott until bus policies are changed. Rosa Parks is also convicted and fined $10.00, plus expenses ($4.00) in Montgomery Recorder’s Court for not responding to the driver’s order.

Dec. 8, 17-19: The Alabama Council on Human relations arranges an unproductive meeting with MIA leaders, City Commissioners, and the bus company.

Dec. 13: MIA car pool begins operation. Service runs from 4am-11pm. When local auto insurance agents cancel policies for volunteer drivers and church vehicles, Lloyds of London agrees to provide liability insurance.


January: City Commissioner Clyde Sellers, Mayor W. A. Gayle & City Commissioner Frank Parks all announce separately that they have joined the White Citizens Council.

Jan. 21: City Commissioners falsely announce the end of the boycott in local papers.

Jan. 26: Rev. Martin Luther King arrested for speeding. He is jailed for the first time in his life.

Jan. 30: Rev. Martin Luther King’s home is bombed. He asks the hostile crowd to not seek revenge, but to peacefully protest instead.

February 1: Browder v. Gayle lawsuit filed in federal court challenging the constitutionality of bus segregation. Also, E. D. Nixon’s home is bombed.

Feb. 20: Last attempt at negotiations between the MIA and City Commissioners.

Feb. 21: MIA leaders & other black activists are indicted under Alabama’s anti-boycott law.

March 19: Rev. Martin Luther King is indicted as a boycott leader. He is convicted and fined $500, plus $500 in court costs, and sentenced to 386 days in jail. The case is appealed, and other “boycott” cases are held over pending a decision.

June 5: The federal district court rules in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation is unconstitutional. The case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

November 13: The Supreme Court affirms the lower court ruling in Browder v. Gayle, holding that bus segregation is unconstitutional. Also, City leaders file for and win an injunction against the operation of the carpool. There is no organized transportation system for the remainder of the boycott.

Nov. 14: MIA members decide to end the boycott as soon as the Supreme Court’s decision is implemented.

December 21: The boycott ends as buses are desegregated.