Robinson on the boycott leaflet campaign (Modified)
Some of the language and phrasing in this document has been modified from the original.
Head Note: Here, Jo Ann Robinson explains how she and others produced and distributed the leaflet calling for a boycott in time for thousands of African Americans to stay off the buses on Monday morning, December 5, 1955. Just before she began this work, Robinson and E.D. Nixon had decided over the phone to call for a boycott.
I sat down and quickly wrote a message and then called a good friend who could use the college’s copying equipment. When I told him that the WPC was staging a boycott and needed to run off the leaflets, he told me that he too had suffered embarrassment on the city buses. Along with two of my most trusted students, we agreed to meet right away, in the middle of the night, at the college’s copying room. We were able to get three messages to a page in order to produce the thousands of leaflets we needed. By 4 a.m. Friday, the sheets had been copied and cut in thirds.
Between 4 and 7 a.m., the two students and I mapped out delivery routes for the leaflets. We had planned before how and where to deliver thousands of leaflets in case of a boycott, and those plans now came in handy.
After class my two students and I quickly finalized our plans for distributing the thousands of leaflets so that one would reach every black home in Montgomery. I took out the WPC membership roster and called them. I asked for their help in giving out the leaflets.
Throughout the late morning and early afternoon hours we dropped off tens of thousands of leaflets. Some of the leaflets were dropped off at schools. Leaflets were also dropped off at business places, stores, beauty parlors, beer halls, factories, barber shops, and every other available place. Workers would pass along notices both to other employees as well as to customers.
By 2 o’clock thousands of the copied leaflets had changed hands many times. Practically every black man, woman, and child in Montgomery knew the plan and was passing the word along.
Source: Excerpt from Jo Ann Robinson’s memoir, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, pp. 45-47, 1987. Knoxville, Tennessee.