(A) ROLE OF KEY INDIVIDUALS
Martin luther King: African American Rights activist
- Using his power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance including protests, grassroot organisations and civil defiance to achieve seemingly impossible successes.
-- Martin Luther King, a young Baptist minister working in Montgomery, had a significant role as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), the organisation in which directed the bus boycott.
- 1963 the march for the freedom of people and right to employment known as March on Washington where the famous “I have a dream” speech outlines the segregation of the society and the discrimination experienced by his fellow community members.
- “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was created during a protest march in the most segregated city in America, Birmingham. This lead to the push for unprecedented civil rights legislations.
- Lead a peaceful non-violent movement in order to obtain quality for the African Americans.
- Registered for voting various times and was refused several times with no reason or justification.
- The law reserved the front seats of the bus for whites. African Americans could sit in the back of the bus or in the middle if whites did not require these seats. Rosa Parks sat in the middle and refused to move when the ‘whites only’ section had ﬁlled up. The bus driver called the police, who arrested her.
- A boycott began concerning the city’s buses and continued for 382 days. This was in addition to African American demands for equal and polite treatment from bus drivers and the provision of jobs for African American drivers.
Malcolm X: African American leader who believed in being militant (taking aggressive actions in support of a cause) to defend white racism.
- Believed in the nation of lslam, incorporating the promotion of economic self-help for African Americans.
- Malcolm took the symbol ‘X’ to signify the absence of an inherited African name and his rejection of his “slave” name, in order to spread both the religious and the political goals of Islam throughout the United States.
- By 1963, around 30 000 African Americans had joined the nation of Islam and Malcolm X had become its best-known spokesperson.
- Malcolm X wanted the separation of races, not integration. He spoke of King’s nonviolence as ‘the philosophy of the fool’ and called for a ‘black revolution’ to overthrow white power. ‘While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare’.
- He urged followers to defend themselves against white aggression “by any means necessary.”
(B) Significant Incidents and events
Montgomery Bus Boycott
- December 1st 1955, in Montgomery Alabama, 42 years old Rosa Parks began another phase of this movement when she refused to give up her seat on the bus and was arrested.
- Rosa Parks: o A well-respected member of the NAACP o Went to gaol for violating the law.
- In protest, the African American community, who comprised 75% if the bus users in Montgomery. o Began a boycott (the policy of refusing to use or purchase the goods or services provided by an individual or group. The purpose is to bring pressure on the individual/group to engage in different behaviour) of the city’s buses that continued for 382 days.
- African Americans wants recognition of their equal rights to bus seats
- Bus companies faced massive financial losses but refused to give in. o They have to support large sections of white community, especially people who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and the Citizen’s Councils formed recognition
- Boycott demonstrated African Americans’ determination to o Take unified action in the fight for their rights o Value of economic power as a weapon o Extent of racism that existed within many southern communities o The changed attitudes of many whites.
- ‘People don’t ride the bus today.