The Birmingham Bus Boycotts in Alabama took place on this day in 1956, led by the efforts of late minister and civil rights figure Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth. The boycott lasted until 1958 and while it wasn’t as effective as other such protests across the Deep South, the movement laid plenty of necessary groundwork and bolstered the Black civil rights community.
On December 20, 1956, Shuttlesworth and members of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights organization demanded that the city of Birmingham do away with its Jim Crow bus laws in six days. On Christmas Day of that year, Shuttlesworth’s Birmingham home was bombed but he and his family survived the attack and the group pressed on.
On schedule, the nonviolent protests began on December 26 and were met with the expected resistance, like the similar Montgomery Bus boycotts.
Shuttlesworth and his wife, Ruby, supervised other desegregation protests throughout the city and their fortunes turned for the better when they became acquainted with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. Shuttlesworth connected immediately with SCLC leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, combining their missions for the greater good.
The Birmingham protests were under constant threat from white racist mobs and others looking to silence the rising movement. The boycotts officially ended in November 1958 and the following year a slight victory came when a judge said Blacks sitting in the front of the bus wasn’t a true crime, although it remained an official city policy.
The Montgomery Bus boycotts led to the 1956 Supreme Court decision that outlawed the desegregation practice but city and state officials ignored the federal rule well into the ’60’s in some places.
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