60 Years Ago Today - A Milestone of the Movement and a Call for Today

Sixty years ago today on December 21, 1956 the Montgomery, AL Bus Boycott officially ended. After more than a year of non-violent resistance and non-cooperation with the segregated bus system, bus service in Montgomery resumed on an unsegregated basis. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared the following words as African Americans prepared to ride the buses again:

   Now our faith seems vindicated.  This morning the long awaited mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court concerning bus segregation came to Montgomery.  This mandate expresses in terms that are crystal clear that segregation in public transportation is both legally and sociologically invalid.  In the light of this mandate and the unanimous vote rendered by the Montgomery Improvement Association about a month ago, the year-old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a nonsegregated basis.

I cannot close without giving just a word of caution.  Our experience and growth during this past year of nonviolent protest has been such that we cannot be satisfied with a court “victory” over our white brothers.  We must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them.  We must be able to face up honestly to our own shortcomings.  We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understanding.  We seek an integration based on mutual respect.

These words from 60 years ago are a powerful witness that the goal of faith based non-violent resistance is justice and reconciliation for all rather than victory over others. Dr. King wrote a detailed account of the Montgomery campaign in his book Stride Toward Freedom. This book is not only a treasured historical document but also an ongoing call to standing up for love and justice amid the deep divisions of our time. The video below is a brief overview of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During this season in which we celebrate the gift of God's love in human form, let us give thanks for those who followed the way of Jesus 60 years ago and recommit ourselves to following that way of non-violent, self-sacrifical love today.