The Birmingham Bus Boycott (After 60 Years)
More than 60 Years have passed since the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We learn lessons from that event and we will continue to fight for the freedom of black people and of the rest of the human race. Black people in Montgomery, Alabama democratically decided that they would boycott the city buses until they were allowed to seat any location in a city buses that they desire. Alabama back then was filled with segregation or Jim Crow apartheid. Black people, who rode segregated buses, experienced violence, theft of their payment to the buses, unfair seating arrangements, verbal disrespect, and other forms of mistreatment. Black people have had enough and that is why black people organize the Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks was a hero was a leader in the movement. Yet, we have to acknowledge other black people who opposed injustice long before the boycott existed. In 1945, a black woman named Geneva Johnson just opposed injustice and she was arrested from the public transit bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1949, the black professor Jo Ann Robinson sat in the front of the bus and the bus driver screamed at her for doing so. Black women like Viola White, Claudette Colvin (who was a 15 year old high school student at the time refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman nine months before Rosa Parks did it), Katie Wingfield, and other Sisters were arrested for challenged the white racist power structure involving segregated public bus lines and refusal to vacate seating reserved of white passengers. It was the federal court suit involving Colvin that eventually led to a Supreme Court order outlawing segregated buses. Epsie Worthy in 1953 was robbed of her transfer fee on the bus. Later, the bus driver assaulted her unjustly. Epsie used self-defense to defend herself and she was arrested. She had to pay a 52 dollar fine and spent time in jail. During the 1950’s, Pastor Vernon Johns (one of the greatest civil rights leaders in history) was forced to give up his seat to a white man. He later tried to get other black people to leave the bus in protest. In September 1, 1954, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. In March 2, 1955, 15 year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to get up from her seat. In October 21, 1955, 18 year old Mary Louise Smith was arrested. Rosa Parks (who was a social activist long before the 1950’s) was arrested too since she refused to get up from a seat.
The Montgomery Improvement Association was one leading group in the movement. Dr. King was elected President of the MIA in December 5. He was elected President since Dr. King was new and he wasn’t in Montgomery long enough to have strong friends or enemies according to Rosa Parks. Tuskegee and Montgomery attorney Fred Gray represented Colvin days following her arrest and Parks in the boycott case. Also, Claudette Colvin was a social activist too. She was part of the Youth Council in the NAACP. E.D. Nixon was a strong organizer of the Bus Boycott. During the 1920’s and the 1930’s, Nixon worked with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (which advanced union rights and racial justice). This was lead by A. Philip Randolph and this group wanted to organize workers into that union. Also, Rosa Parks didn’t rule out the righteous use of force. Rosa Parks admired Malcolm X and spoke in the funeral of Robert F. Williams, who supported armed self defense by the black community.
The boycott caused 90 percent of Montgomery’s black citizens to not ride public buses. The demands (which were moderate) of the MIA were rejected by the white establishment, so the boycott continued well into 1956. A carpool services existed on the advice of T.J. Jemison (who organize a carpool during the 1953 bus boycott in Baton Rouge). The MIA carpool had about 300 cars. Early meetings between city officials and the MIA caused no real agreement (which was organized by Robert Hughes and others of the Alabama Council for Human Relations). In early 1956, the homes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and E.D. Nixon were bombed. Dr. King’s house was bombed in January 30, 1956. Dr. King claimed the crowd, some of whom wanted violent retaliation by saying: “…Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place.’’ After his speech, the crowd went home and no violence (in retaliation to Dr. Kin's home being bombed) happened that night. On February 1, 1956, Fred D. Gray and Charles D. Langford filed the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit on behalf of four female plaintiffs to challenge the constitutionality of city and state bus segregation laws. On that date, the home of E.D. Nixon was bombed. No one is injured. By February of 1956, the city used an injunction against the boycott. Over 80 boycott leaders were indicted. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tired and convicted on the charge (of promoting conspiracies that interfered with lawful business which can from a 1921 law). A National Deliverance Day of Prayer (on March 28, 1956) to support the bus boycott takes place, with several cities outside the South taking part.
Women such as Robinson, Johnnie Carr, and Irene West sustained the MIA committees and volunteer networks. Mary Fair Burks of the WPC also attributed the success of the boycott to ‘‘the nameless cooks and maids who walked endless miles for a year to bring about the breach in the walls of segregation’’ (Burks, ‘‘Trailblazers,’’ 82). Bayard Rustin and Blenn E. Smiley gave Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advice on nonviolence, especially on Gandhian techniques. Dr. Martin Luther Kin Jr. once had a gun in his house and armed bodyguards with him. Rustin convinced Dr. Kin to get rid of the guns in his home and embrace nonviolent tactics 100 percent. Rustin, Ella Baker, and Stanley Levison (he was an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) founded In Friendship to raise funds in the North for southern civil rights efforts, including the bus boycott. The MIA was supported nationwide and worldwide. More media coverage came about to describe the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In June 18, 1956, Rev. U. J. Fields apologized to the MIA in a mass meeting for making the accusation that MIA leaders were misusing funds.
On June 5, 1956, the federal district court ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Browder v. Gayle and struck down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses. The court’s decision came the same day that King and the MIA were in circuit court challenging an injunction against the MIA carpools. Later, the MIA waited until the order to desegregate the buses came to Montgomery. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. So, on December 20, 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called an end to the boycott. The community of Montgomery, Alabama agreed. The next day, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Ed. D Nixon, and Glenn Smiley boarded an integrated bus. King said of the bus boycott: ‘‘We came to see that, in the long run, it is more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. So … we decided to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery’’ (Papers 3:486). Violence continued against black people. In December 23, 1956, someone fires a gun shoot into Dr. King’s home. The next day, 5 cowardly white men attacked a 15 year old black girl at a Montgomery bus stop. Rosa Jordan was shot in both legs in December 26, 1956. On January 10, 1957, four churches and two homes are bombed: Bell Street Baptist, Hutchinson Street Baptist, First Baptist and Mount Olive Baptist, plus the homes of the Revs. Robert Graetz and Ralph Abernathy. An unexploded bomb is found on the porch of King’s parsonage. So, white racist terrorism was common then and now. The Montgomery Bus Boycott represented a new era of the civil rights movement and it was the beginning of the end of the evil of legalized Jim Crow apartheid. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the blueprint of not just opposing segregation in the South, but opposition to any injustice in general.
The French Revolution
We are near 225 years since the beginning of the French Revolution. It is important to know about this history. We have seen religious liberty promoted by the late King Henry IV of France with his his Edict of Nantes (that gave political and religious liberty rights to the Huguenots of France). We also have seen evil and tyranny promoted by Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIV (who infamously called himself the "sun king"). This Revolution was one of the most important revolutions in human history. It is divided into 4 major phases. The first one was the moderate phrase of the National Assembly, which established a constitutional monarchy (from 1789-1791), the second one was the Reign of Terror (1793-1794), The Age of the Directory (1795-1799), and finally the Age of Napoleon (1799-1815). The ideals of the Enlightenment (like free speech, the freedom of the press, and the separation of church and state) and the French participation in the American Revolution influenced the French people to view their government in new ways. Many people in France were inspired by the American Revolution when colonists defeated the monarchy of the British Empire. One member of the French Revolution was the moderate Marquis de Lafayette. He aided the American Revolution. He was a nobleman and a military commander who helped American forces to defeat the British during the Battle of Yorktown. Marquis de Lafayette also wrote the first draft of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Thomas Paine also defended the French Revolution. The old system of French society was called the ancien regime. Many French people overthrew the absolute monarchy and established a new government. Factions (or groups of people grew) and nationalism (or the love of one’s country) developed too. Cities in France like in Paris and Marseilles were active in the French Revolution.
French Society by the late 18th Century
France previously had great economic development and growth of industry. It promoted the Enlightenment principles among many of its people. Yet, by the late 18th century, economic and political problems existed. There was the great famine of 1789 that caused peasants to starve and come into the countryside. Grain prices then soared because of the famine. Even workers in France had to pay 80 percent of their income in taxes. King Louis XVI called an Estates General Assembly of Notables in 1787 for the first time in over a century.
By 1789, France was heavily divided between the rich and the poor. French society was divided into 3 classes called estates. The King of France was not part of any estate as he held absolute power in France before the Revolution. The names of the 3 Estates are the following:
1. First Estate (They included the clergy or the priests and other members of the Church. They criticized the Enlightenment for its views on religion. The Enlightenment scholars believed in a separation of church and state, which contradicted Roman Catholic Church doctrine back then). The Catholic Church and the rest of the clergy in France owned 10 percent of the land, but they paid no taxes. They collected tithes and enjoyed an enormous amount of wealth. The First Estate gave services to people like schools, hospitals, and orphanages. They represented 100,000 Catholic clergy.
2. Second Estate (They were the nobility. They or the nobles held major government jobs). They defended the land. They receive little financial income as compared to the First Estate or the King. They didn't want to pay taxes and they resented how some of the middle class has positions in France. Many nobles hated absolutism (or the philosophy of a King having absolute power over the citizenry). They were made up of 400,000 men and women. They owned 25% of the land and collected seigneurial dues and rents from their peasant tenants.
3. Third Estate (who were the vast majority of the population. It included the middle class and the poor. Doctors, journalists, lawyers, urban workers, etc. were in this class too). The peasants were in the Third Estate. The Third Estate was diverse. The middle class in this instance is also called the bourgeoisie. The poor in France included urban workers, apprentices, journeymen, painters, cloth makers, etc. Men and women earned little income within the Third Estate.
The Causes of the French Revolution
1). National debt-the French government spent more money than it took, which was caused by deficit spending. France was nearing bankruptcy. France challenged British naval and commercial power in the Seven Years’ War and it was costly. After the Seven Years’ War, France lost its colonial possessions in continental North America and it established the destruction of the French Navy. French forces were rebuilt and performed better in the American Revolutionary War, but it cost more money for France. The royal court at Versailles was isolated and they experienced an indifferent to the escalating crisis. The tax system in France was a regressive tax system.
2). The middle class and the poor paid most of the taxes while the wealthy in the First and Second Estates paid little to no taxes.
3). Poor residents of France suffered hunger problems and starvation.
4). Influences from the Enlightenment principles (like the separation of church and state, free speech, separation of powers, opposition to absolute monarchs, and the freedom of the press).
4). Influences from the American Revolution (Tons of French human beings supported the American Revolution and many believed that it could be copied in France)
King Louis XVI
He was the King of France during the French Revolution. He tried to solve the economic problems in France. He allowed the growth of the debt in France after he spent huge money in the Seven Years War and the American Revolution. He continued to fund his lavish lifestyle. By 1789, half of the government's income from taxes went to the super wealthy. He was not a strong leader. It is a historical fact that Freemasonry played an important role in the revolution. Freemasonry was recently invented in the modern era. Many of the major players in the Revolution were Freemasons. King Louis XVI used Jacques Necker as an adviser. Jacques was a financial expert. Necker wanted the king to end the huge spending, reform government, reduce extravagant court spending, and end tariffs on internal trade. Necker published a report to support his views and underestimated the deficit by roughly 36 million livres and he proposed restricting the power of the parlements (or courts of the ancient Regime). He wanted to tax the First and Second Estates, but Jacques was forced out by pressure from the clergy and the nobles (who refused to pay any taxes). After Necker was gone, the economic crisis continued. Charles Alexandre de Calonne replaced Necker was the Comptrollership.
The Estates General
The Estates General was the legislative Congress of the French government. The pressure for reform existed. The wealthy and the powerful classes wanted King Louis XVI to summon the Estates-General in order to handle the problems among the three estates. Louis XVI called on them to solve the economic and political problems in France. The nobles hoped that the Estates General could allow the King to grant them privileges. By the end of 1788, food riots existed, France was near bankruptcy, and token actions weren't working. King Louis XVI wanted the Estates General meeting to allow all three estates to show their grievances in notebooks or cashiers. Many people wanted income, the freedom of the press, economic opportunities, etc. The Estates General meeting convened in May 5, 1789 in the Grands Salles des Menus-Plaisirs in Versailles. Only men who owned property could vote. Delegates were mostly middle class people like lawyers, writers, etc. So, stalemate existed in the Congress. The famous person Abbé Sieyès, a theorist and Catholic clergyman, argued the paramount importance of the Third Estate in the pamphlet Qu'est-ce que le tiers état? (What is the Third Estate?) published in January, 1789. He asserted: "What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something."
During the early parts of the proceedings, the First and Second Estates outvoted the Third Estate. The Third Estate demanded that the credentials of deputies should be verified by all deputies, rather than each estate verifying the credentials of its own members; but negotiations with the other estates failed to achieve this.
On June 10, 1789, Abbé Sieyès moved that the Third Estate, now meeting as the Communes (English: "Commons") proceed with verifying its own powers and invite the other two estates to take part, but not to wait for them. They proceeded to do so two days later, completing the process on June 17.
In June of 1789, The Third Estate united and made the Tennis Court Oath to fight for a constitution in France. This happened in a tennis court room. King Louis XVI begrudgingly accepted a French Constitution. Royal troops gathered around Paris. There were rumors that the King wanted to dissolve the Assembly. The Third Estate formed the National Assembly to promote their own interests. The National Assembly was a revolutionary assembly, which was made up of the Third Estate in trying to get change.
The Storming of the Bastille
From 1789 to 1791, it was the era of the National Constituent Assembly. This happened on July 14, 1789 when more than 800 Parisians (or people from Paris) stormed to the Bastille (or a prison in Paris). First, the Parisians came to the gate of the Bastille. The crowd wanted gunpowder and weapons to defend themselves from any possible attack from the King's forces. The commander of the gate of the Bastille refused to open the gate. Later, the commander opened fire onto the protesters. The crowd fought back and 5 guards were killed. They or the crowd opened the gates and released the prisoners. They wanted to oppose the monarchy and they desired change. They acted in response to the rumors that the King wanted to end changes. The Governor Marquis Bernard de Launay was beaten, stabbed, and decapitated. The Bastille represented the years of abuse that the French people suffered by monarchy and the government. The mob returned to the Hotel de Ville (city hall) and accused the prévôt des marchands (roughly, mayor) Jacques de Flesselles of treachery and butchered him. Jean-Sylvain Bailly, president of the Assembly at the time of the Tennis Court Oath, became the city's mayor under a new governmental structure known as the commune. The King visited Paris, where, on July 17 he accepted atricolore cockade, to cries of Vive la Nation ("Long live the Nation") and Vive le Roi ("Long live the King"). By 1880, the date of the storming of the Bastille is a French holiday like July 4th is an American holiday (of Independence Day).
The French Revolution starts
The French Revolution began in 1789. France experienced fear and excitement. The influence of the French Revolution spread across Europe while other European monarchies like Prussia, etc. opposed the French Revolution as a threat to their conservative system. Paris was one epicenter of the Revolution. Many factions wanted to gain power in France. There were moderate people in the French Revolution (like Marquis de Lafayette, who fought along side George Washington during the American Revolution). Lafayette headed the National Guard of mostly middle class militia created to respond if royal troops came into France. They were the first group to don the tricolor of a red, white, and blue badge. This tricolor emblem would later be the national flag of France. There were more radical people like the Paris Commune. They wanted to organize the people in the streets (like whole neighborhoods) for more radical change. Other groups were more radical than the Paris Commune too.
The storming of the Bastille caused the National Assembly to act. On August 4, 1789, the National Assembly via nobles voted to end their own privileges. They gave up their manorial dues, special hunting rights, exemption from taxes, and special legal status.
The National Assembly ended the feudal system. They also created the Declaration of the Rights of Man (which said that all men are born free and have equal rights). It was modeled after the Declaration of Independence which came about 13 years earlier. The French Declaration announced that, "all men were born and remain free and equal in rights." It promoting the natural rights to liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. All males citizens could vote. It promoted the freedom of religion and taxes to be levied according to the ability to pay. Women were excluded from the declaration, which was wrong. Women like Olympe de Gouges wanted equal rights and suffrage (or the right to vote). She was a French journalist. She wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen. She wrote that "Woman is born free" and "her rights are the same as those of man." Therefore, Gouges stated that, "all citizens, be they men or women, being equal in the stat's eyes, must be equally eligible for all public offices, positions, and jobs." She is correct.
King Louis XVI didn't want to accept the reforms of the National Assembly, which included the Declaration of the Rights of Man document. Nobles enjoyed banquets and people were starving. In October 5, 1789, about 6,000 women marched 13 miles in the pouring rain from Paris to Versailles in trying to see the King. People were angry at Marie Antoinette for her life of pleasure and extravagance. The women met with the King. The King and his family moved into the Tuileries palace.
The National Assembly continued onward.
Its mostly bourgeois members tried to solve the financial crisis in France.
On November 2, 1789, The National Assembly caused the Catholic property to be nationalized and otherwise expropriated. By 1790, under the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, bishops and priests became elected, salaried officials. It ended papal authority over the French Church and dissolved convents and monasteries. Many bishops and priests refused to accept the Civil Constitution. The Pope condemned it. Many French peasants (who were conservative and Catholic) rejected the policy. When the government punished the clergy who refuse to submit. The revolutionaries in Paris and the peasantry in the provinces became more divided. In September 12, 1790, Jean-Paul Marat’s L’Ami du people (or the Friend of the People) is a radical publication appeared.
In 1791, the National Assembly formed the Constitution of 1791. It created a limited, constitutional monarchy. This ended the absolute monarchy of France, which had existed for centuries. Now, a new legislature could make laws, collect taxes, and decide on issues of war and peace. It had other reforms too. To moderates, this completed the French Revolution and to the other radicals, it did not. In June of 1791, King Louis XVI tried to escape, but he was captured and returned to Paris. This event was called the Royal family's flight to Varennes. The emigres (or nobles, clergy, etc. who fled France) told other nations about the events, Catherine the Great and other monarchs took steps to criticize the French Revolution. Prussia threatened France that if they harmed the monarch in France, then they will invade France.
The National Assembly in October 1791 had a new session. Radicals started to talk over more. By 1792, France via the National Assembly declared war against Austria, Prussia, Britain, and other states.
In August of 1792, Parisians in large numbers stormed the royal palace of the Tuileries and killed the King's guards. People started to kill nobles and priests found in prisons accused of political offenses. The radicals took control of France by this time. This starts the Reign of Terror. A new legislative body called the Convention was created. Suffrage was given to all male citizens and the monarchy was abolished.
On September 3, 1791, the Constitution of 1791 is proclaimed. Days later, King Louis XVI accepted the Constitution and is restored to power. From January to March 1792, serious inflation began and there was food riots in Paris. In April of 1792, there is war going on between France and Austria since France is opposed to the absolute monarchy and Austria wanted it in France. In July 28, 1792, the Brunswick Manifesto is published. It threatened the people of Paris with punishment if they don’t submit to the King. It instigates panic that caused the September Massacres. This was when clergy and aristocrats were murdered by mobs of people. The Jacobin Maximilien Robespierre called for the removal of the King in July 29, 1792.
The Reign of Terror
Some, who supported the Revolution, wanted more radical changes. King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed by the radicals. King Louis XVI experienced a trial in December of 1792. He is condemned to death in January 17, 1793 and he was executed on January 21, 1793. The Reign of Terror was when the radicals in France killed thousands of people (to try to end the monarchy). Even people who were innocent and without links to the monarchy were killed by many of the radicals. The radicals in the French Revolutions were called sans-coulettes. Nobles, clergy, and others who left France were called the emigres. The sans-coultettes wanted a Republic (or a government ruled by elected representatives not by a monarch). The Jacobins was a revolutionary club that was mostly made up of middle class lawyers and intellectuals who supported the French Revolution. The Reign of Terror lasted from September 1793 to July of 1794. The revolutionaries introduce the Revolutionary calendar starting with Year II on September 22, 1792. One supporter of the Reign of Terror was Robespierre, but he would be executed too. People were executed by the guillotine (which was a deadly device with a sharp blade). The Reign of Terror involved the surveillance and murder of people. Some people were executed were innocent. On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette was executed. Many Girondin deputies were executed in October 31. In 1794, more people were executed like the opponents of Robespierre in March 24, 1794.
The Rise of Napoleon
People were tired of the Reign of Terror since even innocent people were being slaughtered and murdered. So, France created the Directory in 1795. The middle class and professional people ruled most of France during this time. Mostly men ruled the Directory. Napoleon soon rose to power during this time period. He was born in the island of Corsica in 1769. He was once a soldier in the French army. Napoleon married Josephine de Beauharnais (the future Empress Josephine) on March 9, 1796. Napoleon was a political leader in 1799. He overthrew the Directory and made the Consulate (or a three man governing board). The Consulate established the Bank of France in January 1, 1800. By 1802, Napoleon gained more power and became First Consul and then Emperor by 1804. He would soon invade many nations in Europe. Thus, the French Revolution changed the world forever. The absolute monarchs were gone, which was a positive outcome of the Revolution. More people gotten political and economic rights in France, which was just. Yet, many innocent people were killed unjustly during the French Revolution. So, the French Revolution wasn't all positive. We learn about these events, so we can learn lessons and establish a better future for ourselves and for the rest of the inhabitants of the world.