Commentary of a Black Southern Bus Rider / Rosa Parks
For one program. The Pacifica program service. Radio. How do you do ladies and gentlemen this is Sidney Rodger in my last broadcast I dealt with a subject that certainly received a great deal of response from you and I thank those of you who have written to me and I hope those who haven't will continue to write the subject matter was hoodlums on the streets. And my feeling that it had to be said candidly and honestly that a disproportionate amount of this was among young negroes. Very often just kids 12 13 14 15 16 years old. I gave what in my opinion were some of the reasons for this but frankly I could come up with no answers. I asked for answers from you rather I asked for a dialogue to be started. I ask then what can we do to keep these our children. To save them from this lonely wandering for they are alone even as gangs save them from this wandering with this free floating
hatred that explodes in violent eruption that can only add more corrosion to their already two corroded lives. Well many of you have written often long and very thoughtful letters. None of you chided me for bringing up the subject quite the contrary. The subject by the way will come up again and KPFA will be a medium to set into action this very important dialogue next Friday December 28 at 9:30 PM on what is called the eleventh hour. The original program will be played again from the original tape and then a group of people in the studio will discuss the issue a dialogue will be entered into by some of you have written and by others whom we call resource people. And hopefully there will be some understanding if not answers. Some of said that perhaps some better understanding of the recent history and drive toward liberation of the Negro people in the United States
might have a very healthy effect. On some of these kids if only they knew. Well I don't know. It's an idea worth thinking about. You know it's just been about 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation but emancipation implies something someone gives to someone else. The American Negro particularly and patiently waited and waited and waited for this emancipation and then began his own emancipation the great turning point interestingly enough was not some grand and glorious pre-planned march to greatness but a quiet event that happened just some seven years ago in December of this month. It was in December 955 that a very quiet and I found when I met her a very shy woman named Rosa Parks in Birmingham Alabama. Tired after a long day's work decided not to give up her seat on a bus. And out of that quiet tired quiet and courageous act
was born a national movement. The walk and pray bus boycott. Of Montgomery Alabama after that a movement with sit downs. Freedom Writers school enrollments and much more. Swept the south and inspire the nation. Several months after the event in Montgomery I had the pleasure of speaking to Rosa Parks in a small apartment in West Oakland where she was visiting. I asked her then what actually happened to set off this train of history. And this was her answer. I left the way on my way home December 1st 1955 about six o'clock in the afternoon. I boarded the bus downtown Montgomery on coats as they proceeded out town on the third step. The white passengers had a field in front of the bus. When I got on the verse the three I was feel with the
passengers and they were beginning to Spain and the seat occupied was the face of the seat where the negro passenger was. Take it as they own the surround they Dravot noted that they have front of the bus was feel with white passengers and there would be two three men standing. He looked back and asked that the seat wham. I had taken along with three other places one in the seat with me and two across the seated. He demanded the seat that we occupy and they all the passengers there reluctantly gave up their seats but I refused to do so. He the and call the offices of the Lao. They came and placed me on the wrist and I was on bail at Shelter aft of their wrist
and. Their trial was hailed December 5th on the next Monday and the protests began from that day and it is still continuing. Oh Mrs. Parks what in the world ever made you decide to be the person who after all these years of Jim Crow and segregation. What made you at that particular moment decide you were going to keep that seat. I felt that I was not being treated right then that I had a right to retain the seat that I had taken as a passenger on the bus. But Mrs. Parks you had been mistreated for many many many years you lived most of your life in Montgomery Alabama. What made you decide at the first part of the month of December 1955 that you would have them up. The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could band to be pushed I suppose Mrs. Parks had you planned this.
No I hadn't. It just happened. Yes it dear. Well have there been many times before in your life when you thought that maybe you were going to do just that kind of thing. I hadn't thought that I would be the place and to a dubious way it had occurred to me. But don't you suppose you and many others also thought one time or another you were going to do this thing sooner or later. Well we didn't know just what to expect. In Avatar area we always try to avoid trouble and be as careful as possible to stay out of trouble. And honestly. I want to make various saidon that it is on the stew that I have not taken a seat in the white section as has been reported in many cases they seat where I occupied we were in the custom taken this seat on the way home even though at times own this on the same bus route we occupied had the same
seat with whites standing if their space had been taken the seat had been taken out and I was there my surprise if this rabbi at this point demanded that I remove myself from the seat. You have done something here that I didn't quite understand myself namely this. You said that you did not take a seat in the white section and that is there's no doubt that it has been reported in that way. What happened then that you were in what is normally a colored section and because whites had to stand up. At this point the driver asked you to get up to allow someone else to sit down. Yes right. A white person to sit down yes a person who may or may not have been as tired as you pointed straight but who had not paid any more than you had know and then what happened. The drought thing had that if I refused to leave the seat he would have to call the police. And I told him just call the police.
BT be it and when they they came they placed me and the area was not a pretty frightening thing to be arrested in Montgomery Alabama. No I wasn't frightened. You weren't frightened. Why weren't you frightened. I don't know why I wasn't but I didn't feel afraid. I had decided that I would have to know once and for what rights I had as a human being and a citizen even in my gammer Alabama because you considered yourself a citizen as well as a human being in Montgomery Alabama. You say you weren't frightened and yet to be arrested in Montgomery especially on a charge in which you are in which you are challenging the whole system of segregation could be a pretty frightening thing it could even lead to a certain amount of physical brutality couldn't it. That's possible it could have. But this didn't bother you. No it didn't. And a lot of people of course feel quite ashamed at the disgrace of being arrested apparently you didn't feel there was
any disgrace involved in this one. No not in this. Well then you were arrested and what was the charge. Ballet shone out of the segregation in this city and state of Alabama transportation. Yes but you were sitting in the colored section of the law where you are violating. I did think I was violating in. Well Mrs. Parks at the recent trial of Rev. MLK. It was brought up if not by the defense that there had been over many many years many brutalities and humiliations of Negro passengers on these buses. Can you give us some examples that you yourself have seen or experienced personally of some of these humiliations that took place day after day when you were writing the buses. Yes I have been refused entrance on the presses because I would not pay my fare at the right and go around to the rear to let me have that again now you need to pay your fare at the front and then were forced to walk
around and enter into the rear door. Yes that was a custom if the bus was crowded up to the point where the right passes it would stop. And even if it was raining or anything of that sort you might have to pay your fare at the front and walk back in the rain to the back of the bus and get it. Yes that's true. Well this box that you were arrested you say you went to. You posted bond. Did you have a trial. Yes and you were found innocent or guilty. If you are found guilty then what the case was apiece out of this particular incident of your being arrested and convicted and appealing. How did this lead to this particular protest. From the time of the arrest on there is tonight and Friday and Saturday and Sunday. It would had gotten around over my new camera of my wrist because of this incident. And people just begin to this sad that they wouldn't
read the books on the day of mad trial which was on Monday December 5th and Monday morning when the buses were out on their regular run they remained empty and people are getting rides in cars with people who pick them as best they could. On Monday night the mass meeting at the Hill Street Baptist Church had been cow and there were many thousand people via the baying. Kept coming and some people never did get in the church there were so many in the first day of remaining out the bus had been so successful. It was agonizing that we wouldn't ride the bus until our request had been granted. Well Mrs. Parks How did word get around Montgomery Alabama so
quickly. First of all that you were arrested and convicted and second of all how did the word get around so quickly that there would be a meeting and that people would refuse to ride fam or telephone calls from those who knew about it too. And also an article came out in the newspaper on Friday moaning about the negro woman overlooked segregation. She was seated in the front seat the white section that person refused to take a seat in the rear of the bus. That was a face newspaper account. They didn't write on the day of the trial. They walked. And then how come they kept right on walking. I feel they kept on walking because I was not on the person who had been mistreated and humiliated. I had gone through this same experience some even worse experience and they felt that the time had come that they should
decide that we would have to stop supporting the first company until we were given there to save us. How did it happen to become the kind of religious movement that became or at least we seemed to understand it as a kind of a religious movement theres the talking of walking and praying there is the the the whole appeal to the religious peaceful aspect. And of course a number of ministers have taken a very active part in the leadership. How did this come about. I think this came about because the Minister for there might be interested in it and we had meetings in the churches and being in the minority. We felt that nothing could be gained by violence out there it's a belligerent added tease. We believe that more could be accomplished through the nonviolent passive resistance. We had no quarrel
with anyone. We only want to stop riding the buses until we are treated as any other passenger. And what do you mean when you say as if you were treated as any other person or does this mean for example you want these buses to be completely desegregated. Yes that's the change you want to stop the segregation on these buses. Mrs. Rosa Parks December 955. It was she who decided she had had it enough. And by sitting where she did by being arrested set off what was and probably always will be considered the turning point in this century of the drive toward self liberation self emancipation. She said I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a citizen and a human being in Montgomery Alabama. This is going back into history I'll admit but it's not going backward for the march that
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- Rosa Parks discusses her refusal on December 1, 1955, to give up a seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man and the resulting boycott that ensued, which was in progress at the time of this interview. The Montgomery bus boycott is widely considered to be one of the key moments of the civil rights movement.
- Parks, Rosa, 1913-2005; Roger, Sidney; Protests, demonstrations, vigils, etc. -- Montgomery (Ala.); African Americans--Civil rights--History
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Interviewee: Parks, Rosa
Interviewer: Roger, Sidney
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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Pacifica Radio Archives
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- Chicago: “Commentary of a Black Southern Bus Rider / Rosa Parks,” 1956-04-00, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-kw57d2qp45.
- MLA: “Commentary of a Black Southern Bus Rider / Rosa Parks.” 1956-04-00. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 20, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-kw57d2qp45>.
- APA: Commentary of a Black Southern Bus Rider / Rosa Parks. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-kw57d2qp45