Daybreak of Freedom

Daybreak of Freedom: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Edited by Stewart Burns
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Daybreak of Freedom
    Book Description:

    The Montgomery bus boycott was a formative moment in twentieth-century history: a harbinger of the African American freedom movement, a springboard for the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., and a crucial step in the struggle to realize the American dream of liberty and equality for all. InDaybreak of Freedom, Stewart Burns presents a groundbreaking documentary history of the boycott. Using an extraordinary array of more than one hundred original documents, he crafts a compelling and comprehensive account of this celebrated year-long protest of racial segregation.Daybreak of Freedomreverberates with the voices of those closest to the bus boycott, ranging from King and his inner circle, to Jo Ann Robinson and other women leaders who started the protest, to the maids, cooks, and other 'foot soldiers' who carried out the struggle. With a deft narrative hand and editorial touch, Burns weaves their testimony into a riveting story that shows how events in Montgomery pushed the entire nation to keep faith with its stated principles.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0238-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface: The Spirit of Montgomery
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    Stewart Burns
  5. [Maps]
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  6. Overview: The Proving Ground
    (pp. 1-38)
  7. Chronology
    (pp. 39-52)
  8. Editorial Practices
    (pp. 53-54)
  9. Abbreviations for Collections and Archives
    (pp. 55-56)
  10. 1 Prelude
    (pp. 57-80)

    For a generation, Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and other lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had pursued litigation through federal courts challenging racial segregation. Precedent upon precedent, the NAACP legal juggernaut won a succession of court battles in the 1940s that advanced black voting rights and desegregation of public postgraduate education. The NAACP legal reform strategy culminated in theBrown v. Board of Educationdecision of May 17,1954, declaring public school segregation unconstitutional.

    Four days after the unanimous Supreme Court ruling, an English professor at Alabama State College in Montgomery wrote a letter...

  11. 2 December
    (pp. 81-110)

    If theBrowndecision had made 1954 a somewhat hopeful year for African Americans, 1955 brought disappointment and outrage. In May the Supreme Court implemented its year-old decision with a decree requiring desegregation of public schools “with all deliberate speed,” which meant gradually. Founded in the Mississippi Delta in July 1954, White Citizens Councils vowing to resist integration were mushrooming across the Deep South. In late August 1955 Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago visiting his Mississippi cousins, was brutally murdered for allegedly saying “bye, baby” to a white female store clerk. The killers, who later confessed, were...

  12. 3 January
    (pp. 111-136)

    Befitting its namesake Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways, January 1956 opened a critical new phase of the bus boycott. The month began with heated public debate in the pages of theMontgomery Advertiser, on the street, and in meeting rooms about whether a compromise settlement was feasible, of what it might consist, and whether the protest was justified. January ended with a “get tough” policy by city officials, a historic decision by MIA leaders and lawyers to challenge the constitutionality of bus segregation—stepping beyond their demand for “separate but equal” treatment—and the bombing of King’s...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. 4 Interlude
    (pp. 137-146)

    Date: Friday, January 20,1956

    Time: 11:00 A.M. to 2:15 P.M.

    Place: Respondent’s home, 801 Bolivar Street, Montgomery, Alabama

    [Ferron]: [. . .] What is your relation to the Montgomery Improvement Association?

    [Lewis]: I belong to the executive committee as a result of being co-chairman of the transportation committee. The executive committee is composed of the transportation committee, the committee for strategy, committee for public relations, and the finance committee.

    [Ferron]: Who is the other chairman?

    [Lewis]: Reverend [W.J.] Powell. Initially he was elected to contact taxis to see about hauling people at a reduced fare. I was elected to contact...

  15. 5 February
    (pp. 147-176)

    Black Montgomerians hated segregation for many reasons. One was the conviction, reaffirmed almost daily, that it could never be equitable or fair. In December and January they experienced publicly, as a unified community, what many had known privately all along: that legalized segregation could never be anything but white supremacy, naked or veiled. It could not be palliated by cosmetic reforms.

    The authorities “did not do what we wanted done,” Fred Gray later reflected.” When that became apparent, then the question is, ‘how long are we gonna stay off the buses?’ People have to look forward to something. And the...

  16. 6 Interlude
    (pp. 177-194)

    While I was waiting for a bus to leave the garage, I talked with a couple of the drivers who were sitting around waiting for their buses. The first one I talked to looked about in his late 30’s, told me he had been driving 19 years—did not attempt to identify him as far as name was concerned. I started out by asking him whether business was picking up on the lines. He said Saturday used to be one of their best days but that this one had been pretty bad. Went into lengthy discussion of how everybody had...

  17. 7 March
    (pp. 195-220)

    Unlike most of his fellow leaders and followers, King joined the bus boycott committed to a qualified understanding of Christian nonviolence. If his interpretation of it had been rooted mainly in the New Testament, it might have looked, from the outset, more like the Gandhian nonviolence espoused by Bayard Rustin and Glenn Smiley. But King’s faith-based nonviolence was anchored in the Hebrew Scriptures and had been tempered by Reinhold Niebuhr’s persuasive conception of evil. The young preacher’s tentative nonviolent philosophy differed from that of Gandhi and his radical pacifist disciples in that he faced sin squarely, without illusion, like the...

  18. 8 Interlude
    (pp. 221-234)

    Date: January 18,1956

    Time: Morning

    Place: Female interviewed in pool car

    Occupation: Domestic in white rental area

    Age: about 40

    [Lee]: Would you tell me what’s going on around here? You see I just came into town, and I’ve been reading in the newspapers something about the people not riding the buses, and I don’t quite understand really what’s happening. So I’d appreciate it if you would tell me.

    [Domestic]: You mean ‘bout us boycottin’ the buses?

    [Lee]: Yes.

    [Domestic]: Well, you know, dis is a Jim Crow town, and us is boycottin’ the buses ‘cause dey put one of...

  19. 9 Spring
    (pp. 235-262)

    Around the world, 1956 gave birth to new beginnings, fresh bursts of freedom sprouting from withering husks of the prewar order. The winning nonviolent movement in Ghana would render irreversible the overthrow of European colonialism in Africa, its last frontier. Poor nations of the South had banded together in Bandung, Indonesia, to create a “nonaligned” movement as an independent third force between the rival American and Soviet empires. In Moscow, the new Communist Party leader, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalinist crimes at a party congress in February, sparking disaffection among communists worldwide and a democratic revolt in Hungary that Soviet tanks...

  20. 10 Summer
    (pp. 263-280)

    As spring turned to summer in Montgomery, the bus boycott’s legal offensive heated up along with the air, pavement, and car pool radiators. The moral momentum of theBrowder v. Gaylelawsuit was buttressed by a Supreme Court decision in late April in a bus segregation case from South Carolina.¹ In 1954 Sarah Mae Flemming had sued the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company, which operated city buses in Columbia, for violating her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by forcing her to move to the black section of a bus. In February 1955 a federal district judge dismissed her...

  21. 11 Fall
    (pp. 281-306)

    For Montgomery’s black community, buoyed by theBrowderruling, boycotting buses became a way of life. Late summer and autumn brought new legal and extralegal efforts by segregationists to shut down the prolonged mass protest. Insurance policies for car pool vehicles were mysteriously canceled. Rev. Robert Graetz’s home was bombed; fortunately he, his wife, and children were away, visiting Highlander Folk School in Tennessee accompanied by Rosa Parks. Confidential information arrived (probably from Graetz’s trusted local FBI contact) and rumors abounded that outside Citizens Council activists, provoked partly by emerging divisions in their own ranks, were conspiring to intervene, vigilante-style,...

  22. 12 Winter: Return of the Light
    (pp. 307-348)

    On December 3 King opened the Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change, which commemorated the movement’s first anniversary, with an address before several thousand townspeople and visitors at Holt Street Baptist Church. “God decided to use Montgomery as the proving ground for the struggle and triumph of freedom and justice in America,” he declared to the assembly. “It is one of the ironies of our day that Montgomery, the Cradle of the Confederacy, is being transformed into Montgomery, the cradle of freedom and justice. . . .

    “All of the loud noises that you hear today from the legislative halls...

  23. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 349-350)
  24. Index
    (pp. 351-359)