Interview about the boycott (Full Text)

Head Note: Researchers from Fisk University visited Montgomery, Alabama, during the boycott to learn more and to document the movement. Researcher Willie Lee recorded this woman's ideas about the boycott during an interview at a car pool dispatch center.

[There is a half-page of interview before this]

Lee: Thank you very much for what you've told me, but now tell me this. Had anything like this ever happened before Mrs. Parks was arrested?

Maid: Oh yes, honey, this stuff has been going on for a long time. To tell you the truth, it's been happening ever since I came here before the war (World War II ). But here in the last few years they've been getting worse and worse. When you get on the bus they yell: “Get on back there” (very empathetic and expressive person), and half of the time they wouldn't take your transfer, then they make you get up so white men could sit down where there were no seats in the back. And you know about a year ago they put one of the high school girls in jail ‘cause she wouldn't move. They should have boycotted the buses then. But we are sure fixing ‘em now and I hope we don't ever start back riding. It'll teach them how to treat us. We people, we are not dogs or cats.

Lee: Speaking of the way they treat you, exactly what do you want them to do before your will ride the buses again?

Maid: All we want ‘em to do is treat us right. They shouldn't make me get up for some white person when I paid the same fare and I got on first. And they should stop being so nasty ‘cause after all they are not doing us no favors. We pay just like the white folks. And too, we want them to put Negro bus drivers in the sections where Negroes live.

Lee: Do you think the bus company will agree to give these things?

Maid: Well, they are the ones losing the money and our preachers say we will not ride unless they give us what we want.

Lee: Speaking of money, have you been down town to shop any since this protest started?

Maid: I've been there plenty of times, but it's only when I have to.

Lee: I see. Well, tell me, did the clerks in the stores treat you any different than they did before this thing started?

Maid: No, they were just as nice as they could be. Some of them even call you 'Miss.' You see the business men are losing money too, because people only go to town when they have to.

Lee: How do the people you work for feel about it?

Maid: I almost forgot about them, I'm glad you brought it up. You see I work out in Cloverdale (elite section of town) for Mrs. Prentiss, and she hates it, but it sure ain't nothing she can do about it.

She said to me when I went to work that Wednesday, "Beatrice, you ride the bus, don't you?"

I said, "I sure didn't."

She said, "Why Beatrice, they haven't done anything to you."

I said, "Listen, Mrs. Prentiss, you don't ride the bus, you don't know how those ole nasty drivers treat us, and further when you do something to my people you do it to me too. If you kick one, if you can get around to me you'll kick me too. My mother taught me, Mrs. Prentiss, to ‘treat thy neighbor as thy self,' but I don't have anything in my heart but hatred for those bus drivers."

"Beatrice, don't feel that way. I've always been nice to you."

[There are two pages of text following this—all from this interview]

Source: Excerpt from an interview conducted by Willie Lee, January 1956. Montgomery, Alabama.