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Martin Luther King: Montgomery Bus Boycott

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Published: Fri, 12 May 2017

In my opinion Martin Luther King was the most significant result of the Montgomery bus boycott. King played a key role in the organisation and leadership of the boycott which ultimately lead to its success. He was the focal point of the boycott; however, there were other factors that contributed to the success of this movement. For example, the successful effort of the 50 000 black population in Montgomery which demonstrated black unity and a new attitude to protest.

The strength of the boycott developed from the unity of the black population to boycott the busses. It demonstrated the power and effectiveness of the black community when they worked as one. Martin Luther king actively encouraged the black unity by acting as a role model and an inspiration to many stressing the protest was not to be violent or ‘passive resistance’ but an ‘active non-violent resistance to evil’. The role of King in the boycott was extremely important in keeping the unanimity of the black community, this was the fundamental factor if the blacks were going to win the boycott and challenge the segregation laws. Thus, King was the most significant result of the Montgomery bus boycott.

The Montgomery bus boycott also emphasised the importance and the potential of the black economic power. Black shoppers were unable to go downtown without travelling on public buses so businesses owned by the whites lost in excess of one million dollars. This was a turning point for many white business men and resulted in them working against the segregation ordinance. If violent protest was used, which a large proportion of the population wanted, then victories such as this would not have occurred. Therefore King’s strength of leadership and his use of non-violent protest justifies that he was the most significant result of the boycott.

The boycott highlighted the significance of organisations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) and the MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association). It showed the continuing effectiveness of these organisations’ strategies of going through the law courts to pursue equal rights for Black Americans. These particular associations challenged the bus segregation laws by taking them to the district court where they were proved unconstitutional (Browder V. Gayle). Although the district court declared the segregation laws unconstitutional, there was little change in the situation (De jure change) until the supreme court backed the ruling in December 1956. Therefore, the organisations working for the rights of blacks and the Browder V. Gayle Supreme Court ruling were also an extremely significant result of the boycott. In summary, although Martin Luther King had a major impact due to his inspirational leadership and motivational skills, other key factors, such as the ones mentioned above also played n important part and must have recognition.

Other individuals involved in the boycott were also important such as Jo Ann Robinson, who decided to challenge the Brown V. Board of Education case by distributing propaganda leaflets to get support from the black population. Rosa Parks also played a big role in the protest; after all she initiated the protests which lead to the boycott which subsequently lead to the bus segregation laws being declared unconstitutional. This proves that although King was arguably the most significant result of the boycott, other individuals also played an important role.

The success of the boycott inspired others like Melba Pattillo who volunteered as a ‘guinea pig’ for the NAACP and church leaders during the ‘Little Rock crisis’ in 1957. Pattillo volunteered to transfer to the all white high school with eight other black students where they were faced daily harassment from white students. Due to the courage and determination of Melba Pattillo and the other eight black students it proved that the Brown V. Board of Education (whereby it was declared that separate schools were unequal) was a De Jure change as it faced wide spread resistance from the white Americans. This forced President Eisenhower and the authorities to intervene as the constitution seemed threatened. This resulted in Cooper V. Aaron ruling which confirmed that keeping public schools segregated was unconstitutional. Individuals such as Pattillo were therefore a significant result of the boycott and although it brought King to the forefront of the movement there were other significant results which arose from the success of the boycott.

The SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) set up by King in 1957 aimed to improve the black situation in the South which had specific problems. The SCLC was set up to work alongside the NAACP but provide an alternative (direct non violent action) to the NAACP’s litigation strategy. The SCLC attracted national attention to racial inequality an example of this is the march in Washington in support of Eisenhower’s civil rights bill in May 1957. Therefore Martin Luther King was the most significant result of the Montgomery bus boycott as he also made a positive impact on the situation for black Americans in the South.

In conclusion, I agree that Marin Luther King was the most important result of the Montgomery boycott. King’s leadership and motivation inspired the black community to unite and work as one to overcome the bus segregation laws in an ‘active but non-violent resistance to evil’. The boycott saw the rise of King as a civil rights leader and as a spokesman of the modern civil rights movement. However, there were other very significant results of the boycott such as the Browder V. Gayle Supreme Court ruling that proved that the bus segregation ordinance was unconstitutional. Other significant results of the boycott were that it challenged and invalidated many of the Jim Crow laws and that it inspired many other successful boycotts in Southern States. As a result, I believe there were many significant results of the boycott however; I feel I must agree that Martin Luther King was the most significant.

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