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(1955) Martin Luther King Jr., “The Montgomery Bus Boycott”

The Montgomery Bus Boycott speech reprinted below is one of the first major addresses of Dr. Martin Luther King.   Dr. King spoke to nearly 5,000 people at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery on December 5, 1955, just four days after Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus.  That arrest led to the first major civil rights campaign in the Deep South in half a century. In this speech King urges the audience which has just voted to boycott the buses to continue that campaign until they achieve their goal of ending the humiliation and intimation of black citizens there and elsewhere in Montgomery or to use his words, "..to gain justice on the buses in the city."  

My FRIENDS, we are certainly very happy to see each of you out this evening. We are here this evening for serious business. We are here in a general sense because first and foremost we are American citizens and we are determined to apply our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning. We are here also because of our love for democracy, because of our deep-seated belief that democracy transformed from thin paper to thick action is the greatest form of government on earth.

But we are here in a specific sense, because of the bus situation in Montgomery. We are here because we are determined to get the situation corrected. This situation is not at all new. The problem has existed over endless years. For many years now Negroes in Montgomery and so many other areas have been inflicted with the paralysis of crippling fears on buses in our community. On so many occasions, Negroes have been intimidated and humiliated and impressed-oppressed-because of the sheer fact that they were Negroes.  I don"t have time this evening to go into the history of these numerous cases. Many of them now are lost in the thick fog of oblivion but at least one stands before us now with glaring dimensions.

Just the other day, just last Thursday to be exact, one of the finest citizens in  Montgomery not one of the finest Negro

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