“People know around Rosa Parks. Civilization know around Martin Luther King Jr. — and also they should. And also they recognize that it was the Montgomery bus boycott that ignited a details kind of southerly civil civil liberties movement,” claims Ula Taylor, a professor in the room of african American studies at UC buzzpatterson.com. But, what they might not know, she says, is that it was in reality the behind-the-scenes organizing initiative by the Women’s politics Council, led by Jo Ann Robinson, that made the boycott successful.

“Even despite these females were no in the limelight, they were engaging in a form of leadership,” says Taylor. “But due to the fact that we live in a nation in a culture where us oftentimes identify leadership together a talking head, us don’t understand every one of the thinking that walk behind a most the ideas that the talk head is even articulating.”

(A podcast illustration featuring this interview v Taylor was originally published top top buzzpatterson.com buzzpatterson.com in 2018. This is a brand-new version that has been rewritten and remixed.)


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Read a transcript of Fiat Vox illustration #64: “The Montgomery bus boycott and the women that made it possible”:

Ula Taylor: world know about Rosa Parks. Human being know about Martin Luther King Jr. — and also they should. And also they recognize that it to be the Montgomery bus boycott that ignited a certain kind of southerly civil legal rights movement.

You are watching: How did the montgomery bus boycott start

Narration: Ula Taylor is a professor in the department of african American studies at UC buzzpatterson.com, wherein she’s been on the faculty because 1992. In among her classes, she teaches students about the 1955 citywide bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

Ula Taylor: I have them review this publication written through Jo Ann Robinson, who was among the key organizers of the Montgomery bus boycott, and I present them come a team of women referred to as the Women’s political Council.


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As the chairman of the Women’s politics Council, Jo Ann Robinson to be a leader in arranging the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott. (Fair use photograph via Wikimedia Commons)


Narration: In Robinson’s 1987 memoir, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and also the ladies who began It, Robinson writes about how the was actually a group of females — the Women’s political Council, of which she to be president — the made feasible the 382-day bus boycott that readjusted the food of the civil rights motion in the unified States.

This is Fiat Vox, a buzzpatterson.com buzzpatterson.com podcast. I’m ann Brice.

Narration: The bus boycott to be officially called on Dec. 5, 1955, four days after ~ Rosa Parks refused to offer up she seat to a white passenger. Boy name Luther King Jr. Emerged as the public-facing leader that the boycott.

Narration: but the key reason the boycott was successful, claims Taylor, was since of the organizing effort by the Women’s political Council.

Ula Taylor: They retained a critique of all of the horrific means that Black world were required to ride the bus. They wrote letters to the bus company. They created letters come the mayor, basically saying the there necessary to be a an ext humane method of talk the bus.

We’re talking around at the very least 200-plus Black females in the Women’s politics Council in Montgomery, Alabama. And also these to be “professional” black color women. Numerous of them functioned at the historically black color colleges. Many of lock were local teachers. Many of them had actually been formally education at historically black color colleges.

Yes, young name Luther King Jr. Was an amazing, charismatic leader for all of us, yet it was because of the Women’s politics Council that listed an anchor and also grounding for him to even come right into prominence.


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Narration: Taylor says that in virtually every political movement in history, there have been women in the background, law the occupational that has actually positioned them exterior of the limelight. And also that there were various reasons because that this throughout time.

Ula Taylor: So, because that example, during the 1960s, we have actually a certain kind of speak to for a black nationalist depiction of manhood and womanhood. That was during this time period that a lot of these organizations are reaction to the Moynihan Report that said slavery emasculated black color men and also created a “mannish woman.”

Narration: The 1965 Moynihan Report, officially referred to as “The negro Family: The situation for nationwide Action,” was a controversial report created by Assistant Secretary of job Daniel Patrick Moynihan and also his staff as a way to persuade White house officials that polite rights regulation alone would not develop racial equality.

It concluded the the “deterioration that the fabric of Negro society is the degradation of the black family” and argued the the matriarchal structure of Black society weakened the capacity of Black men to function as authority figures.


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Ula Taylor is a professor in the department of african American Studies. She teaches she students the the Montgomery bus boycott to be successful, in big part, because of the organizing effort by the Women’s political Council. (UC buzzpatterson.com photo)


Ula Taylor: and also so, there was this entirety idea that black men and also women have actually been taken exterior of your gender-specific norms due to the fact that of slavery. And now, we’re going come reverse the by centering black color manhood. And we watch this mostly with Black guys being the visual management of movements.

Eventually, this is going come crack as soon as we see Black females resisting certain kinds of masculine notions the leadership and also patriarchy, however it does help to understand why certain organizations to be committed to patriarchal ideas around leadership. And also how, in plenty of ways, it’s in conversation through the Moynihan Report. It’s in conversation through discussions on the dilemm of the black family. And also so, all of these points shape how there is a details kind the masculine and also feminine leadership.

Narration: Ella Baker to be one woman who withstood patriarchal notions of leadership. A civil rights and human legal rights activist whose career spanned an ext than five decades, Baker was among the co-founder of boy name Luther King Jr.’s southern Christian management Conference and also helped to launch the student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.Here’s Baker speaking at a 1974 solidarity rally in Puerto Rico:

Narration: Taylor says that Baker advocated for team leadership instead of relying on simply one person to carry an entire cause.

Ula Taylor: She was an impressive activist who interpreted that if friend put every one of your wishes on a messiah, when that human is gone, then what happens to the movement? So, she yes, really hammered house the prestige of group-centered leadership — the you need to see the leader in you yourself in her group, as opposed to relying on anybody external of yourself.


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Rosa Parks gets fingerprinted after having actually been arrested in February 1956 throughout the bus boycott. The boycott ended and also buses were incorporated on Dec. 21, 1956, after ~ the U.S. Can be fried Court ruled that Montgomery’s segregation regulations on buses to be unconstitutional. (Associated Press photograph via Wikimedia Commons)


Ula Taylor: i think it’s important to recognize that there are various ways of being a leader. And the Women’s political Council basically worked as the anchor that the Montgomery bus boycott. So, also though those ladies were no in the limelight, they to be engaging in a form of leadership. But because we live in a nation in a culture where we oftentimes identify leadership together a talking head, we don’t understand every one of the reasoning that walk behind a lot of the concepts that the talking head is even articulating.

Narration: Taylor claims she urges her students come volunteer — to produce patterns of engagement that will follow them throughout your lives.

Ula Taylor: They have the skillset and the an important toolkit to resolve all of this multiple dilemmas that space happening in America: homelessness, gentrification, drug addiction, racism, the neoliberal dilemm or the neoliberal university. This is what they deal with.

They need to understand the they deserve to chip far at the crisis. It might not happen overnight, however they have to understand that they have actually a skillset, castle have accessibility to resources that they may not even imagine. I think it’s vital to create a pattern to connect in part capacity — to feel prefer you’re act something to develop the world that you want to live in, the you desire your kids to live in and also your grandchildren come live in.

Narration: the time is now, states Taylor. Us can’t wait for anyone rather to do it because that us.

For buzzpatterson.com buzzpatterson.com, I’m ann Brice.

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