Tallahassee Bus Boycott 1956 Essay

1109 words - 4 pages

History shows that all protest movements rely on symbols - boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, flags, songs. Symbolic action on whatever scale - from the Tallahassee Bus Boycott to wearing a simple wristband - is designed to disrupt our everyday complacency and force people to think. You have to be careful how you're using the word boycott. Boycotters in Tallahassee achieved an important victory in the struggle for civil rights.
On the date May 26, 1956, two female students from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, had taken a seat down in the whites only section of a segregated bus in the city of Tallahassee, Florida. When these women refused to move to the colored section at the very back of the bus, the driver had decided to pull over into a service station and call the police on them. Tallahassee police arrested them and charged them with the accusation of them placing themselves in a position to incite a riot. In the days after that immediately followed these arrests, students at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University organized a huge campus-wide boycott of all of the city buses. Their inspiring stand against segregation set an example and an intriguing idea that had spread to tons of Tallahassee citizens who were thinking the same things and brought a change of these segregating ways into action. Soon, news of the this boycott spread throughout the whole entire community rapidly. Reverend C.K. Steele composed the formation of an organization known as the Inter-Civic Council (ICC) to manage the logic and other events happening behind the boycott. C.K. Steele and the other leaders created the ICC because of the unfounded negative publicity surrounding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP faced a lot of persistent attacks from segregationists who claimed that the organization was a front for communist activity. Despite the local origins of the boycott, segregationists took suddenly upon the perception that outside protesters or agitators, meaning communists from the NAACP, intended to use the case of Jakes and Patterson to provoke racial tensions in Tallahassee. The ICC started to compose a carpool system to provide transportation for all of the African-Americans during the boycott event. City officials quickly charged ICC leaders with operating an illegal for-hire operation without a franchise to back it up. Reverend C.K. Steele was among those later arrested in connection with the car pools. The slogan for the movement, attributed to C.K. Steele, became “I would rather walk in dignity than ride in humiliation.” As the boycott still carried on into the summer, the Tallahassee police continually harassed its organizers as well as rank-and-file members of the ICC, many of whom were Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University students. Segregationists smashed windows at Reverend C.K. Steele’s house and burned crosses into his yard on numerous...

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