“I was not tired physically, or no more

tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although

some people have an image of me as

being old then. I was 42. No, the only

tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

–Rosa Parks

 

On December 21st in 1956, Martin Luther King was one of the first passengers of a new integrated bus system in Georgia, where blacks and whites rode together. Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat so that white passengers could make use of it. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during which the black citizens of Montgomery refused to ride the city’s buses in protest over the bus system’s policy of racial segregation. It was the first mass-action of the modern civil rights era, and served as an inspiration to other civil rights activists across the nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr- a little-known, twenty-six year old Baptist minister with a doctorate from Boston University, led the boycott. During the boycott he began his rise to national and international prominence in the US Civil Rights Movement. Drawing on his study of nonviolent civil disobedience in the teachings of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi, King delivered a message of nonviolent protest against racial injustice in eloquent, powerful sermons and speeches. On the boycott’s first day, speaking before a crowd of more than 5,000 black citizens, he said:

“There comes a time when people get tired.... tired of being segregated and humiliated.... If you will protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love...historians will have to pause and say ‘there lived a great people—a black people—who injected a new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’ This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility.”