This Saturday, December 1, will mark 63 years since Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This act is widely regarded as sparking the Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956.
But Rosa Parks was not the first African-American woman to be arrested for violating the bus segregation laws. Four women were also arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up their seats and standing up to the segregation laws that violated their rights to equal treatment. These four women, Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith, with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, brought a federal lawsuit, Browder v. Gayle, challenging the bus segregation laws in Alabama. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the District Court’s decision, ruling that the bus segregation laws violated the U.S. Constitution. On December 20, 1956, the Montgomery buses were desegregated.
The desegregation of the Montgomery buses and the dismantling of Jim Crow laws did not happen all at once. The actions of individuals and of people working together pushed the civil rights movement forward.
In marking Rosa Parks Day, our union movement needs to remember that individual actions are part of progress to a larger goal. And yet, we do not act alone in the fight for economic justice. Our activism with that of our brothers and sisters, combine to push our movement forward.