Although people had been working for civil rights for African Americans for some time, one famous event is considered the beginning of the civil rights movement.
In the South of the 1950s, public transportation was segregated. On buses, white people rode in the front and black people rode in the back. There were signs on the buses reading WHITE FORWARD, COLORED REAR.
If all of the WHITE seats were filled and more white people got on, any black people who were still sitting were asked to get up and give the white people their seats.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a black woman, was sitting on such a bus, tired after a long day’s work as a seamstress. All of the White seats were filled. When more white people got on, Mrs. Parks was asked to give up her seat. She refused.
A policeman was called, and when he asked her to stand, she replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand. Why do you push us around?” The policeman said, “I don’t know, but the law is the law, and you’re under arrest.”
Parks’ arrest interested E. D. Nixon, a black community leader for whom Parks had worked as a secretary. He asked her if he could use her case to try to bring an end to segregation on the buses in Montgomery, and she agreed. The black community leaders decided that the black people should boycott, or refuse to use, the buses, for one day.
The boycott was scheduled for December 5, 1955, and came to be known as the Montgomery bus boycott.