The boycott was also successful due to the publicity it had received from well known papers as ‘the boycott made the front page of the New York Times and the cover of Time magazine’(3), making the event known all around America, which would have encouraged black Americans and given them hope that a change was to come. Also, being on the front page of these predominately ‘white’ papers it means that many white Americans will read it and are able to sympathise with the black Americans and what they’re going though, as well as build support for them. In the first speech Martin Luther King gave for the Bus Boycott at the Holt Street Baptist Church in December 5th 1955, during his speech he had emphasised the importance of non-violent techniques and that ‘justice and equality’(4) would be met by this. It had gained much publicity a even some white reporters attended, for example Joe Azbell, who was the editor of ‘The Advertiser’ which was a white daily newspaper, he had stated in one of his articles that there was a ‘whoop of delight… and discipline among Negroes that many whites doubted’ (5) this shows that the white people had under estimated the power that the black Americans could achieve and coming from a white reporter who had witnessed the huge support they had towards the Bus Boycott emphasizes the publicity this event had gained.
The Bus Boycott could also be seen as big significance as without it the emergence on Martin Luther King perhaps would not have happened, as he was the voice of this boycott, and he had influenced and inspired many people, for example Rufus Lewis who had founded the Montgomery Bus Association (MIA) described King as a ‘very intelligent young man’ and that ‘he would make you feel what he was saying and not just hear it… he had effected the whites too’ (6) it shows the impact King had which shaped the Civil Rights movement and without the Bus Boycott, King’s influence may have not emerged. However this evidence could be deemed biased as Rufus Lewis was one of the people as well as Ralph Abernathy who had nominated King to be the President of the MIA, and that he had said these things about King to prove why King should be president; nonetheless King had touched many people and him being the president of the MIA would have increased the chances of improvement in Civil Rights due to King being a good speaker and his organisation.
Martin Luther King founded The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 in attempt to use the momentum from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to make more Civil Rights changes in the South. King led the SCLC campaign in Albany, Georgia in 1961/2 and in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, where he gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech which influenced hundreds of thousands of people, and it could be one of the reasons that led to the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which can only be attributed to King’s achievements in his campaigns, as without him and without the publicity and awareness he bought from his speeches the Civil Rights Act may not have come as soon as it did. When Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded J.F Kennedy he spoke about his ‘developed compassion for the courageous struggles of African Americans during the Civil Rights movement’(7) and the way King had influenced him, which led to Johnson passing the Civil Rights Act. King’s efforts after the Bus Boycott shows that he had been able to make everyone aware of the cause in order to change the Civil Rights laws, and that without the Bus Boycott this would not have been possible.
However, it could be seen that the Bus Boycott was not that significant as there were many disadvantages that came from it. The success of the Bus Boycott could suggest that the success of the case for bus desegregation was mainly for economic reasons and not in fact for justice and equality for the African Americans. The bus boycott led to the local bus company of Alabama to become highly broke and eventually bankrupt, they had no other way of fixing their economy other than desegregating the buses, as 70% of the bus company’s income came from the black people, which highlights the power of the black community as they were able to cause this upon the business’s. An article in the New York Times stated that the bus fares had to ‘be raised by 50 percent’ (8) due to the boycott, so not only are the Black people not riding the buses but this could have also discouraged the whites from riding the buses too due to the increased fare, suggesting that the bankruptcy may be a reason for why there was not much backlash from the white community after the desegregation laws in buses were passed in Alabama, which shows how the Bus Boycott did not really impact the Civil Rights movement. As the desegregation law for buses was only passed to ‘save’ the bus company business. Also, the New York Times was a fairly unbiased newspaper, as the article hardy contained any opinions, as it was all facts, meaning that the source can be trusted.
Furthermore, the violence that the black Americans experienced during and after the Bus Boycott was vast. King’s house was bombed in January 1956, when this happened it affected the ‘whole black community’ (9) this would have intimidated the African American’s, as it would have made them feel unsafe in their own homes. A few days later E.D Nixon’s home was also bombed, causing the police to arrest black people for no reason, in order to stop them from protesting. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) would raid through the black neighbourhoods and yell and humiliate the black community. The black people were also harassed by the policemen Jo Ann Robinson said that ‘Hundreds of Black motorists were stopped and given tickets for traffic violations… I myself received 17 traffic tickets for all kinds of trumped-up charges.’ (10) It shows that the police would want to make up any reason to make the black people’s lives as difficult as possible in order for them to stop the boycott. Robinson may have exaggerated slightly, in order to build sympathy for herself and the black community at that time as this was a quote taken from an article; however it just shows how the bus boycott did not have much of an impact as it made the lives of the black people considerably worse.
Even after the boycott had ended, the harassment and violence continued towards the black community, as stated in an article by the Advertiser ‘Snipers were shot at buses’ and ‘four Baptists churches… the home of another black were all bombed.’(11) This source came from a white news paper, which shows it can be trusted, as at that time may not have wanted to build sympathy for the black community. This also shows that the Bus Boycott did not have much of an impact, as only desegregated the buses and other forms of segregation still existed, suggesting why the white people were still hostile towards the black community. The fact that an article was written about the violence shows that even though, the white people are being told of the injustice that occurs, not much is being done to stop it, emphasising how the Bus Boycott had maybe made more damage than to resolve any problems as it increased the backlash from the white people and especially the KKK.
In addition to the increased violence the African Americans faced, the events that occurred after the Bus Boycott were not impacted by it and could be seen more significant than the Bus Boycott in progressing in Civil Rights. This can be shown in 1961 from the Freedom Rides; it can be argued that this event was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. The Freedom Rides were initiated by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which sent a group of interracial students to travel through the Southern cities in protest to segregation on interstate buses, they had also planned to ignore the ‘white’ and ‘colored’ signs in eating and toilet facilities. It showed that Black Americans could be peaceful in protests, James Farmer who was the CORE co-founder said that ‘We planned the freedom ride with the specific intention of creating a crisis … we figured that the Government would have to respond if we created a situation that was headline news all over the world’ (12) this shows that they wanted to gain attention from the hostility and viciousness of the white people in order to achieve publicity and make the world aware of the injustice the black people faced. The Freedom Rides achieved its aim in making the Government respond to this hostility as President John F. Kennedy provided federal marshals to help protect the Freedom Riders in the South. This implies that the Freedom Rides was what gained the attention of the government to ensure that segregation was outlawed. Therefore, this shows that the Freedom Rides can be seen as having a bigger impact on Civil Rights than the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
In conclusion, I think that the Montgomery Bus Boycott had the biggest significance on the Civil Rights Movement, as due to the boycott, it impacted many events to come which had eventually led to the success of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. I don’t believe it would have been possible for the Civil Rights to have achieved this if it was not for the Civil Rights. As if it was not for the Bus Boycott Martin Luther King would not have emerged and changed the views of many Americans and built momentum for the Black Americans to fight for a change, as it had given them power due to the success of this event. Therefore, the short term impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was immense as this was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.