On Monday, the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African...

On Monday, the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture at Alabama State University and the Holt Street Baptist Church Historical Society held the 47th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The 47th anniversary's theme was "Law, Justice, and the People in the Mass Meetings of the Montgomery Bus Boycott". This theme basically explained the topics of the anniversary and the events that occurred in December of 1955.

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Sitting in a room with several men and women who were present at the first bus boycott meeting on Dec. 5, 1955, one could only try to recap the events of that day. Forty-seven years ago, Holt Street Baptist Church was filled with 5,000 blacks with a determination to rise against segregation as a result of the arrest of Rosa Parks four days earlier.

The day of Parks' arrest, she had lunch with civil rights attorney Fred Gray. After their lunch, Gray went out of town and Parks later went on to work at the Montgomery Fair department store. Gray then later received a call from Parks saying that she had been arrested, and they then decided to fight segregation.

Gray, at the time, was a young man who had just obtained a law degree from Case Western University, and six months later he was handed his first major civil rights case. Gray had received his bachelor's degree from ASU which he soon left with a secret commitment . "I promised myself that I would leave ASU and go to law school but then come back to destroy everything segregated in Montgomery," said Gray. Gray said that in Montgomery at that time everything was segregated: schools, churches, hospitals, elevators, etc. With Parks' arrest, Gray was able to relate because of his arrest 1954 for a disorderly conduct charge for sitting in the white waiting room at Dannelly Field Airport in Montgomery.

Gray's defense of Parks and the five plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle became the landmark Montgomery Bus Boycott case that brought him national recognition as a civil rights attorney. Gray is also known for other cases like the Gomillion v. Lightfoot in 1960, the 1964 NAACP v. State of Alabama and the 1963 Vivian Malone v. Dean of Admissions, University of Alabama.

During Gray's address, he not only talked about the events that occurred with Parks, but he also talked about the impact that ASU had on the bus boycott. "ASU was the university at the heart of the civil rights movement; it was also the heart, soul and spirit of the Montgomery bus boycott," said Gray. Gray also said fhat the role that ASU played is not on paper but is a very important story and should be told. "The students at ASU should learn to write the history of ASU in the civil rights movement," said Gray.

Not only we're there several men and women present who we're in Holt Street Baptist Church during the first meeting, but there we're other people present who helped fight segregation in other cities in Alabama. Willie D. McClung, Pastor at Holt Street Baptist Church, was a student at Miles College in Birmingham where he sat on the bus and acted as a "foot soldier." "We provided the force for the mass meetings, which was the same as the students at ASU," said McClung.

As one of the choirs began to leave the program before the address, Gray expressed how their exit almost brought him tears because he said young people today really do not understand the events of Dec. 5, 1955 and the 381 days that it took for the buses to become integrated. Gray wanted to make the importance of youth education clear so that they will not fall back to the era that strong African American leaders have worked hard to escape from.

As an African American, Gray spoke of three important things one should do: first, recognize that racism still exists; second, find a plan to eradicate it and third, execute the plan.

With the sounds of "Precious Lord" and other songs , the audience sat with a certain sense of confidence and pride as the speakers spoke of the African American struggles and accomplishments.

"The first few words of the Preamble, 'We the people', didn't refer to people like me, so I have devoted all of my life to make the constitution apply to all," said Gray.

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Posted in Law Post Date 07/03/2019


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