The Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery Ala., ended 65 years ago this month. From December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery to protest segregated seating. On day one of that boycott, over 40,000 African Americans refused to ride the bus. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired of the assaults to their human dignity and civil rights.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott is regarded as the earliest mass protest on behalf of civil rights in the United States, setting the stage for additional large-scale actions outside the court system to bring about fair treatment for African Americans.
My parents were first generation immigrants from the South, and just a decade earlier had been a part of the Great Migration of Blacks who made their way north, west and east of the bastion of southern brutality to make new lives for themselves and their children. As a six-year-old then in South Central Los Angeles in 1956, I celebrated getting my first new bike at Christmas as my parents and neighbors celebrated the victory in Montgomery. What I did not know until many years later was that in January of 1957, four Black churches and the homes of prominent Black leaders were bombed. Even a bomb at the home of Dr. Martin Luther King was defused.
Progress is never steadily progressive. Often it is two steps forward followed swiftly by one step back. Sometimes it is a great leap forward met by a whirlwind or resistance pushing the hopes and aspirations decades back.
There has always been a white supremacist backlash to the affirmation that Black lives matter. Instead of Reconstruction, after the proclamation of emancipation of formerly enslaved people, came the “Redemption” Movement — the return of white supremacy and the removal of citizenship and voting rights that Blacks recently attained. Political pressure to return to the old order was backed by mob and paramilitary violence, with the Ku Klux Klan, the White League, and the Red Shirts assassinating pro-Reconstruction politicians and terrorizing southern Blacks.
I am twice as old today as my parents were when they gifted me with my first bicycle on Christmas day of 1956 and sat around the kitchen table with their friends toasting the miracle in Montgomery. And while I too am sick and tired of being sick and tired, I also realize that apathy and fatigue are luxuries democratization and justice can ill afford. Ours is a movement. Not a moment. The struggle continues.