December 19, 1956 – Martin Luther King, Jr. & William J. Powell Issue Integrated Bus Suggestions

On this day in history, Martin Luther King, Jr. and William J. Powell (Pastor of Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1953 to 1964) issued guidelines on behalf of “The Montgomery Improvement Association” to mitigate potential conflicts in the coming transition to integrated busing.


In June of 1956, a federal district court had ruled, in Browder v. Gayle (352 U.S. 903, 1956), that segregation on Alabama’s intrastate buses was unconstitutional, citing Brown v. Board of Education as precedent for the verdict. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one line per curiam affirmance of Browder.

On December 17, 1956, the Supreme Court rejected city and state appeals to reconsider their decision, and three days later the order for integrated buses arrived in Montgomery. Dr. King signaled the official end of the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott by issuing a statement on December 20 to that effect, and boarding an integrated bus himself on Dec. 21, 1956.  Also boarding a bus on December 21 as Rosa Parks, who got on a bus driven by James F. Blake, the bus driver who had had her arrested. She reported that he didn’t react at all, and neither did she.

The Montgomery Bus Segregation System

The Montgomery Bus Segregation System

Yet of course, the troubles did not end. Shots were fired at the buses and bombing attacks were carried out on prominent black leaders. But the success of the boycott also led to the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as its president.


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