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A man cannot ride your back
A man cannot ride your back

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It was the end of a boycott that had been planned to last a day, and instead lasted a year. It had begun with a tired woman who refused to stand, and ended with the Supreme Court. Its leader was some nobody preacher, who was now the most famous King in America. The year was 1956, and the place was Montgomery, Alabama. Against all expectations, including those who planned and spearheaded the boycott, those on the side of right had triumphed. In the state of Alabama, it was no longer legal to segregate public transportation by the color of passengers' skin.

The struggle, like any other struggle for something worth winning, was not easy. In order to orchestrate a successful boycott, Martin Luther King and his friends had to convince the entire black population of the city to avoid the bus. Few black people owned their own cars, and commuting to their jobs was the only way to feed their families. Without the support and coordination of the local church community, it would have foundered. Carpools were organized, volunteers to drive and money for gas collected, but still many had to walk. And though support was arriving from all around the country, the local reaction swiftly grew ugly. Nasty, hateful mail was flowing into the mailbox of Dr. King, and someone even bombed his house.

If the actions of individuals were disgusting, then that of the government was even more so. Threatened by the loss of revenue in bus fares, and in a panic that such a huge portion of its own population could organize itself so well, the city of Montgomery struck back. They spread lies and rumors about the black leadership, and when that failed to work, moved on to legal action. This boycott, they claimed, was interfering with the transportation business. Which of course it was - that being the whole point. Dr. King and his friends found themselves repeatedly drawn back into court to fight the issue, from local to federal, and then finally to the Supreme Court.

The issue of racism and civil rights aside, the actions of the Montgomery city government chill the blood. Their demand was for the right to monopolize local transportation, and run it how they saw fit, a method that happened to include wide-scale degradation of a major segment of their customers. A true private corporation could never get away with doing such a thing, but the city was not only doing just that, but had the nerve to be shocked and outraged when challenged on it. Their right to their monopoly had been violated; to choose to walk was to rob the company. It is a selfish demand to entitlement that survives to this day in cities all over the world, as private alternatives to the local public transportation are shut down or zoned out of business.

In Montgomery, however, it failed. On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court found the boycott had just cause in disrupting Montgomery's transportation and ordered all of Alabama's buses to desegregate. Dr. King was no less than astonished. Word spread like wildfire, first across the city and then across the country. Civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, two new concepts that would come to change American society forever, had proved their worth. Disenfranchised humans had remembered their claim on the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and were asserting it. And though it was a government that tried to stop them, the rights of individuals emerged the winners. For this reason, every person of any color has reason to celebrate December 20th, the day Martin Luther King Jr. declared the boycott successful and complete. The next morning, he and his friends boarded the local bus while TV cameras recorded the ride for all the country. The driver, a white man, recognized Dr. King and tipped his hat.

"Glad to have you aboard, sir."