Lessons From the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Until I did the research myself, I thought the story about the Montgomery Boycott was all about twisting the truth and mostly stuck-up black folks. Before I get angry comments, hear me out. Ms. Rosa Parks and the people who boycotted before her were victims of <arel=”nofollow” href=”http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/issues/jim-crow-laws” target=”_blank”>good ol’ southern racism. I just had some skepticism of the more educated African-Americans really caring about poor people. My thought was that the black community was not exempt from the inauthenticity of hidden agendas and bullsh*t.
I had a friend shake me into the truth about Millennials (mdash) they are a little obnoxious know-it-alls. I looked at the Millennials with the filtered eyes of a child without a voice. I raised my kids with this motto, “You are ready for the world when you can stand in your own beliefs even if I don’t agree.” I think my little sh*ts only heard the first part of the sentence because they often feel when I disagree (that I am trying to overrule them).
So now I see what my friend is saying about the Millennials. But wait … WE (Generation Xers) raised them. While I was probably on of the strictest mommy in my posse, I did emphasize their right to their “voice” and helped them practice their voice. So to open the black history month, here are three lessons Millennials and Generation Xers can learn from the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
#1 Civil Unrest Brings Attention to an Issue (but it is not the final Solution)
The protest was key to awareness and action. People were protesting individually. Claudette Calvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith, Jeanatta Reese and Rosa Parks represents a larger number of people who refused to give up their seat. The boycott kept the pressure on the court systems to render justice.
#2 The Boycott was Strategically Planned and Executed.
The Montgomery bus boycott was strategic from selecting Rosa Parks as the face of the boycott to the day it ended . As a business consultant, when I hear strategy, my heart beats double time! The road to success is always paved with smart thinking and hard work. Here are a few things to take note about the boycott (and the lawsuit):
- The strategy for Browder v. Gayle was to focus on one thing: whether bus segregation was constitutional.
- The NAACP leaders were very strategic in who they selected and how they presented the face for the movement.
- Gray, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle decided not to include Rosa Parks in the case because he did not want to cloud the case goal.
- Aurelia Browder was chosen as the lead plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle because had the right reputation for the case.
#3 It was the Work Within the System that Brought About Sustainable Change
Last Christmas, during one of my family’s annual political
argument discussions, my son said something to the tune of that he did not know what to do and protesting is a way to do something. The civil rights leaders (and lawyers) knew victory lived within the judicial system. While the protest was going on, the ground altering work happened within the justice system itself. Both civil and systematic unrest helped bring about change.
- December 5, 1955 — the one-day bus boycott leads the way for the 381-day boycott.
- February 1956 — lawyers file a petition, Browder v. Gayle, citing bus segregation is unconstitutional.
- June 5, 1956 — U.S. District court rules that bus segregation is unconstitutional.
- November 13, 1956 — Supreme Court upholds the U.S. District Court’s ruling.
- December 17, 1956 — Supreme Court reject Alabama’s appeal to the ruling.
- December 20, 1956 — the boycott ends after the Supreme Court upholds the ruling
#4 We Have to Fight for a Cause Bigger Than our Own
Claudette Colvin believed her hair texture played a part in why she was not picked as the face of the movement. Her feisty attitude alienated her and she was labeled troublemaker. She was the “Millennial” of the movement. Although, she may have resented the fact that her role in history went unnoticed for many years, she still felt that Rosa Parks was the right face for the movement. She wanted success for the movement more than she wanted proper credit for the role she played in history. Deep.
We are not going to agree on everything but there are things we can learn from the Montgomery Bus Boycott:
- Generation Xers, protest is important part of bringing about changes. Millennials, protest without action is just a tantrum.
- Strategy is important part of bringing about change.
- Handle bite-sized issues that are clear and easily understood.
- At some point, if you want to bring about long-lasting change, you have to exercise your right as a mature adults and fight within the system.
- Millennials, you have the fight, but you can’t make progress without our wisdom. We need each other.
In honor of Black History Month, let’s talk inclusion and not exclusion. This has been your Daley Word.