Why did the boycott of Montgomery's buses succeed? (Read each source below, then answer the questions in the notebook. Ask your teacher for an inquiry organizer worksheet to help you think about the ways that the sources support and contradict each other.)


READ: Letter from Robinson to the Mayor

Head Note: In this letter, Jo Ann Robinson writes the Mayor of Montgomery asking for fair treatment on the buses.

Honorable Mayor W. Gayle

City Hall

Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Sir:

The Women’s Political Council is very grateful to you and the City Commissioners for the hearing you allowed our representative during the month of March, 1954, when the "city-bus-fare-increase case" was being reviewed. There were several things the Council asked for:

1. A city law that would make it possible for Negroes to sit from back toward front, and whites from front toward back until all the seats are taken.

2. That Negroes not be asked or forced to pay fare at front and go to the rear of the bus to enter.

3. That busses stop at every corner in residential sections occupied by Negroes as they do in communities where whites reside.

We are happy to report that busses have begun stopping at more corners now in some sections where Negroes live than previously. However, the same practices in seating and boarding the bus continue.

Mayor Gayle, three-fourths of the riders of these public conveyances are Negroes. If Negroes did not patronize them, they could not possibly operate.

More and more of our people are already arranging with neighbors and friends to ride to keep from being insulted and humiliated by bus drivers.

There has been talk from twenty-five or more local organizations of planning a city-wide boycott of busses. We, sir, do not feel that forceful measures are necessary in bargaining for a convenience which is right for all bus passengers....

Please consider this plea, and if possible, act favorably upon it, for even now plans are being made to ride less, or not at all, on our busses. We do not want this.

Respectfully yours,

The Women’s Political Council

Jo Ann Robinson, President

Source: Excerpt from a letter written by Jo Ann Robinson, May 21, 1954. Montgomery, Alabama.

USE THE NOTEBOOK (instructions):

Robinson Mugshot

Jo Ann Robinson was arrested with many other activists on December 21, 1955 for her activities during the boycott.


These definitions should help with reading comprehension.

  • boycott: a refusal to deal with something, such as an organization, a company, or a process, as a protest against it and to force it to become more acceptable
  • "Negroes": the term used to refer to African Americans during this period
  • Women's Political Council: an organization for African American professional women who sought to increase the influence of the Black community in local politics

Jo Ann Robinson

Listen to Historian Mike O'Malley discuss Jo Ann Robinson's background and her relationship to the boycott.

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