♪ MAN: The fear that had shackled us all left when we were together.
ANNOUNCER: It might seem like ancient history.
"All you nigras, get up from the lunch counter," and, you know, "or we're going to arrest you."
ANNOUNCER: But the stories of the Civil Rights Movement still resonate for us all.
We might as well ask for, you know, complete desegregation.
Finally, we were encountering the evils that had been destroying us on a mass scale.
♪ ANNOUNCER: From the landmark series Eyes on the Prize, "Awakenings."
♪ I guess our courage came out of because we didn't have nothing, that we couldn't lose nothing.
But we wanted something for ourselves and for our children.
And so we took a chance with our lives.
MAN: We marched up the steps with this circle of soldiers with bayonets drawn.
And walking up the steps that day was probably one of the biggest feelings I've ever had.
I figured I had finally cracked it.
CROWD: Freedom now!
MAN: My freedom is very much entangled with the freedom of every other man.
So I'm fighting for my own freedom here.
MAN: Are you scared?
Yes, I'm very much afraid-- everyone here is.
♪ Go tell it on the mountain ♪ Over the hills and everywhere... ♪ NARRATOR: In a ten-year period, in the 1950s and 1960s, America fought a second revolution.
♪ Who's that yonder dressed in white?
♪ NARRATOR: It was fought in the South by black people and white.
It was fought in the streets, in churches, in courts, in schools.
It was fought to make America be America for all its citizens.
These were America's civil rights years.
♪ Go tell it on the mountain... ♪ REPORTER: I take it then that you are advocating Negroes in New York to stay out of these national chain stores?
Oh, no, that's not true.
I'm advocating that American citizens interested in democracy should stay out of chain stores.
CHOIR: ♪ I woke up this morning with my mind, Lord... ♪ WOMAN: I have thought for a long time that Negroes should be allowed to sit at the counters where we are served downtown.
This is just a part of many things that I think they should be allowed to do.
All the people of the South are in favor of segregation.
And Supreme Court or no Supreme Court, we are going to maintain segregated schools down in Dixie.
We're willing to be beaten for democracy and you misuse democracy in the streets!
Why don't you get out in front of the camera and go on?
It's not a matter of being in front of the camera.
It's a matter of facing your sheriff... and then hide your blows.
It was a clear engagement between those who wished the fullness of their personalities to be met and those that would destroy us physically and psychologically.
You do not walk away from that.
This is what movement meant.
Movement meant that finally we were encountering on a mass scale the evil that had been destroying us on a mass scale.
You do not walk away from that.
You continue to answer it.
CROWD: ♪ We shall not, we shall not be moved ♪ ♪ Just like the tree that's standing by the water ♪ ♪ We shall not be moved.
I always think of what Matthew, Junior, told me when he called... when he called from the jail.
He said... he said, "Be cool, Mother."
(laughs) And that was very trying, and yet it was amusing, too-- his telling me to be cool at this point.
(men yelling) WOMAN: ♪ I been in the storm... MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.
And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man.
That will be the day of man as man.
CROWD: ♪ We are not afraid ♪ We are not afraid... NARRATOR: It was a hard fight challenging America's basic beliefs.
What is an "inalienable right"?
What is "equal treatment under the law"?
What is "liberty and justice for all"?
It was a hard fight, but the prize was freedom and no American could afford to lose.
CROWD: ♪ We shall overcome someday.
♪ I know the one thing we did right ♪ ♪ Was the day we started to fight ♪ ♪ Keep your eyes on the prize ♪ Hold on, hold on.
♪ Keep your eyes on the prize ♪ Hold on.
NARRATOR: For much of this century, America was segregated.
It was our social system, our way of keeping blacks and whites apart.
By custom and by law, most blacks were servants, laborers, tenant farmers; went to separate, poorer schools, lived in separate, poorer housing.
Segregation was the context for black lives throughout the country, but especially in the South-- a complete environment, socially and psychologically.
For a long time I had the idea that a man with white skin was superior because it appeared to me that he had everything.
And I figured if God... would justify the white man having everything, that God had put him in a position to be the best.
If you're born into a system that's wrong, whether it's a slave system or whether it's a segregated system, you take it for granted.
And I was born into a system that was segregated and denied blacks the right to vote-- it also denied women the right to vote-- and I took it for granted.
Nobody told me any different.
Nobody said it was strange or unusual or wasn't like other states.
NARRATOR: Segregation had its rules and Southern blacks knew that if they didn't obey them-- if they didn't step aside to let a white man pass or if a black man looked too closely at a white woman-- the system could be enforced by violence.
Groups like the Ku Klux Klan used terrorism to uphold white supremacy and were an ever-present symbol of intimidation.
But there were always blacks who fought against segregation.
Many ministers preached equality, and black unions and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People worked for it for decades through speeches, demonstrations and court cases.
(newsreel music playing) All-American News brings you our people's contributions to America and freedom.
NARRATOR: World War II had an enormous impact on black hopes for change.
Black Americans fought and died in a segregated U.S. Army.
But they saw a larger, unsegregated world.
They saw their own power as they fought and as some were trained as officers and specialists.
And they came back with a new sense of themselves.
MAN: I spent three years overseas in New Guinea and I became an officer during that period.
I had been eager to exercise authority, so when we got out, it was just one more step to say, "Well, look-- we aren't going to take this anymore."
NARRATOR: The South they came back to was determined to resist change, and most of the nation was not ready to hear black demands for justice.
Then, in the early 1950s, after years of carefully planned litigation, the N.A.A.C.P.
brought these demands to the Supreme Court.
The test cases were set in schools.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown vs. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional.
It called into question the whole system of segregation.
It was quite a shock to Southerners to be told that the way they had been running their affairs for many, many years was no longer acceptable to the nation as a whole.
And a great many of the older crowd of white Southerners felt that they came of an ancestry that were founders of the Republic and they knew the Constitution and customs and laws of the country as well as anybody else.
(demonstrators chanting) NARRATOR: The South resisted desegregation with legal and illegal delays.
It would take years before the Supreme Court's decision would be implemented in any meaningful way.
But it had one immediate effect.
I think that the greatest impact of the Brown decision was on the black community itself.
It was a statement to the black community that they had a friend, so to speak-- the Supreme Court.
And so it emboldened the communities of blacks around the country to move forward to secure their own rights.
NARRATOR: The change began slowly, especially in rural areas.
Blacks knew they could still lose their livelihood or their lives if they pushed whites too fast.
But step by step, the change began, first with small acts of personal courage.
In September 1955, an old man named Mose Wright took that remarkable first step.
His story starts at the Tallahatchie River in Money, Mississippi.
Here the body of Mose Wright's nephew, Emmett Till, was found weighed down in the waters.
Two local men were arrested and charged with the murder.
They were white.
Emmett Till was black.
Till had come down from Chicago to visit his relatives.
This is Mose Wright.
I am the uncle of Emmett Louis Till.
Sunday morning, about 2:30, someone called at the door and I said, "Who is it?"
and he said, "This is Mr. Bryant.
I want to talk with you and the boy."
And when I opened the door, there was a man standing with a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other hand.
And he asked me, did I have two boys there from Chicago.
I told him I had.
And he said, "I wants the boy that done all that talk."
And they marched him to the car and they asked someone there, was this the right boy, and the answer was, "Yes."
And they drove toward Money.
And I found out about it 9:30 Sunday morning.
I was in bed.
I got up, called my mother when I got the news, because every decision I had ever made or every crack that I had ever been in, it took her to get me out of it.
And I took that one to Mama, too, because I didn't know what to do.
Mother told me to come right over and she would start making calls.
And I got over there as quickly as I could make it, and that wasn't very long.
NARRATOR: By this time, everyone in Money knew what had happened.
Emmett Till had broken one of segregation's rules-- he'd talked fresh to a white woman in a store.
He was only 14, he was a Northerner, and he didn't understand.
We went into the store to buy some candy.
Before he went in, he had showed the boys around his age he had some pictures of some white kids that he had graduated from that was female and male.
So he told the boys down there, gathered around the store-- there must have been round about... maybe ten to 12 youngsters around there-- that the girls was his girlfriend, you know.
So one of the local boys said, "Hey, there's a girl in that store there.
I bet you won't go in there and talk to her," you know.
So he went in there to get some candy.
So when he was leaving out the store, after buying the candy, he told her, he said, "Bye, baby."
And the next thing I know, one of the boys came up to me and said, "Say, man, you got a crazy cousin.
He just went in there and said 'bye' to that white woman."
And that's when, um, this man I was playing checkers with, this older man-- I guess he must have been around 60 or 70-- he jumped straight up and said, "Boy, y'all better get out of here."
Say, "That lady will come out of that store and blow your brains out."
Wednesday, the sheriff came and told me they had found a body at Philipp and wanted me to go and identify the body, which I did.
And we found the body.
It didn't have on any clothes at all.
The body was so badly damaged that we couldn't hardly just tell who he was, but he happened to have on a ring with his initials.
And that cleared it up.
NARRATOR: The body was shipped home-- back north to Chicago, where Mamie Till Bradley insisted on an open-casket funeral.
"So all the world can see," she said, "what they did to my boy."
WOMAN: ♪ I am an old pilgrim ♪ Of sorrow.
♪ And I'm left in ♪ This whole wide world ♪ I'm left in this wide world alone.
♪ NARRATOR: Jet magazineshowed Till's corpse-- beaten, mutilated, shot through the head.
A generation of black people would remember the horror of that photo.
♪ No hope for tomorrow.
I believe that the whole United States is mourning with me.
And if the death of my son can mean something to the other unfortunate people all over the world, then for him to have died a hero would mean more to me than for him just to have died.
NARRATOR: Roy Bryant, husband of the woman in the store, and J.W.
Milam, her brother-in-law, were arrested for the murder of Emmett Till.
The trial was held in nearby Sumner, Mississippi.
Black organizations like the N.A.A.C.P.
and the black press were especially interested, and they worked hard to keep the case in the news, to make an example of Southern racism for the world.
It was because it was a boy that they went there.
They had to prove that they were superior.
They had to prove it by taking away a 14-year-old boy.
You know, it's in the virus, it's in the blood of the Mississippian.
He can't help it.
I'd like for the N.A.A.C.P.
or any colored organization anywhere to know that we are here giving all parties a free trial and intend to give a fair and impartial trial.
And we don't need the help of the N.A.A.C.P.
and we don't intend for them to help us.
We never have any trouble until some of our Southern niggers go up north and the N.A.A.C.P.
talks to them and they come back home.
I had covered the courts in many areas of this country, but the Till case was unbelievable.
I mean, I just didn't get the sense of being in a courtroom.
It was, first place, segregated.
The black press sat at a bridge table far off from the court.
And the boy's mother came down.
They sat her there at the bridge table with us.
Plus the United States congressman at that time, Diggs-- he came down and I was the one that got him in, because the sheriff wouldn't let him in.
He said to the deputy that he called over, he said, "This nigger here said there's a nigger outside "who says that he's a congressman "and he has corresponded with the judge "and the judge has told him to come on down and he would let him in," he said.
"But the sheriff won't let him in so he's sending his card up there."
So this guy said, "A nigger congressman?"
And he said, "That's what this nigger said."
So I said to myself, "My God, I have never seen anything like this in my life!"
There was, of course, a lot of buzzing when I entered the place and was placed in that area.
And I think the judge said something about, "Yeah, have that boy come on up here and sit down over here with these news reporters," you know.
(chuckling) REPORTER: What do you intend to do here today?
To answer any questions that might... that the attorneys might ask me to answer, to the best... How do you think you could possibly be a help to them?
I don't know.
Just by answering whatever questions that they ask me.
SECOND MAN: Do you have any evidence bearing on this case?
I do know that this is my son.
NARRATOR: The defense argued that the body found tied to the cotton gin fan in the river was so disfigured that it could not be identified as Emmett Till.
The trial took five long, hot days.
Because of threats to his life, the prosecution's star witness, Mose Wright, was kept hidden out of state.
Will you go back to Mississippi to testify in the kidnap trial?
I'll go back, because I promised the sheriff I'd be back.
So if I live, I'm going back to testify.
And after the trial, well, I'm through with Mississippi forever and ever.
They can have my part of Mississippi.
I'm through with it.
At the time, I really didn't realize how brave my grandfather Mose Wright was, you know.
But after I got older, I realized that he was a brave man.
He was a mighty brave man to travel back down there among all those hostile peoples and testify, and get up in court and point his finger at a white man and accuse him of murder.
He was called upon to testify as to... could he see anybody in the courtroom-- identify anybody in that courtroom-- that had come to his house that night and got Emmett Till out.
He stood up, and there was a tension in the courtroom, and he says in his broken language, "Dar he."
NARRATOR: "Dar he"-- there he is.
Other black witnesses came forward, too.
Their courage made no difference in Sumner, Mississippi.
As the trial ended, a defense lawyer told the jury he was "sure every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men."
It took the jury an hour to find the men not guilty.
REPORTER: How do you folks feel now that it's all over?
Roy, how about you?
I'm just glad it's over with.
I am, too.
I feel fine.
How about you, Mrs. Milam?
Did you expect this verdict?
Well, I was hoping for it.
Well, the whole trial was just a farce and...
But the verdict was the one that I had expected to be given.
NARRATOR: Months later, Roy Bryant and J.W.
Milam told their story of the night of August 28 for $4,000 to reporter William Bradford Huie.
Milam was startled at the belligerent attitude or the fact that young Till didn't appear to be afraid of him.
He'd gone and gotten him out of bed and had him in the back of the truck and young Till never realized the danger he was in.
I'm quite sure that he never thought these two men would kill him.
And... or maybe he's just in such a strange environment, he doesn't, really just doesn't know what he's up against.
And it seems to a rational mind today, it seems impossible that they could have killed him.
Milam looked up at me and said, "Well, when he told me about this white girl he had," he says, "My friend, that's what this war is about down here now.
That's what we got to fight to protect."
And he says, "I just looked at him, and I said, 'Boy, you ain't gonna never see the sun come up again.'"
NARRATOR: For much of Southern history, lynching had been an ordinary story.
Race killings were down by the 1950s, but over the years, there had been more than 500 documented lynchings in Mississippi alone.
And the fact that Emmett Till, a young black man, could be found floating down a river in Mississippi, as indeed many had been done over the years, just set in concrete the determination of people to move forward.
And I think we said back there that really, only God-- only the books in heaven can know how many Negroes have come up missing and dead and killed under the system in which we lived.
NARRATOR: In Mississippi, a few black people stood up to the system.
But it was not enough.
Their challenge was easily beaten back.
Three months later, in Alabama, when many stood together, the challenge would be strong.
It started with a woman named Rosa Parks in Montgomery.
MAN: Montgomery in 1955 was a typical Southern city.
We are called "the cradle of the Confederacy."
And there is a tradition in Montgomery of... having the... carrying out the old Confederate South type of things-- the stars-and-bars flags...
It was a totally segregated community.
The department stores had white water fountains and colored water fountains.
We had separate taxis.
You had black taxis and you had white taxis.
NARRATOR: And Montgomery, like all of the South, had segregated buses.
In interstate buses like this one and in city buses, the whites sat in the front, the blacks in back.
If more whites got on, the blacks had to give them the middle and back seats, too.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger.
The front seats were occupied and the one man, a white man, standing.
At this point the driver asked us to stand up and let him have those seats, and when neither... none of us moved at his first words, he said, "Y'all make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats."
And when the policemen approached me, one of them spoke and asked me if the driver had asked me to stand.
I said, "Yes."
He said, "Why don't you stand up?"
I said, "I don't think I should have to stand up."
And I asked him, I said, "Why do you push us around?"
He said, "I do not know, but a law is a law, and you are under arrest."
Parks was formerly my secretary in the N.A.A.C.P.
in the local branch for about 12 years.
She also worked with me when I was state president of the N.A.A.C.P.
And she also assisted me in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
And if there ever was a woman who was dedicated to the cause, Rosa Parks was that woman.
NARRATOR: This was not the first time a black person had defied the bus segregation in Montgomery.
It was not Mrs.
Parks' first time; it was her first arrest.
Nixon went to the police station to bail her out.
I said, "Miss Parks, with your permission, we can break down segregation on the bus with your case."
I said, "I'm convinced that we can do it."
I said, "If I wasn't convinced, I wouldn't bother you by it."
She asked her mother what she thought about it and she said, "I'll go along with Mr.
Asked her husband-- he said, "I'll support it."
She said, "That's fine."
Nixon and other black leaders called for a one-day bus boycott.
In some cities it would have been impossible to organize 40,000 people in two days, but black Montgomery had a core of activists in the Women's Political Council, and they distributed these boycott notices all over the city.
I called every person who was in every school and every place where we had planned to be at that... have somebody at that school or wherever it was, at a certain time, that I would be there with materials for them to disseminate.
I didn't go to bed that night.
I cut those stencils, I ran off 35,000 copies.
The bus passed right down in front of my house, you know, and I got up to see it, and several buses passed.
I was late for work because I was trying to see how many buses was empty and they were totally empty.
NARRATOR: The one-day boycott was a success.
That night, a mobilized black community turned out for a meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church and voted unanimously to continue the boycott.
The preachers were preaching as I came in-- I was about two minutes late coming in-- and they were preaching, and that audience was so on fire.
The preacher would get up and say, "Do you want your freedom?"
And they'd say, "Yeah!
Yeah, I want my freedom."
"Are you for what we're doing?"
"Yeah, go ahead, go ahead."
I don't know if there was one vote that said, "No, don't continue."
The people wanted to continue that boycott.
They had been touched by the persecution, the humiliation that many of them had endured on buses.
And they voted for it unanimously, and that meant thousands of people.
You see, when I first started fighting, I was fighting to keep, so that the children who came behind me wouldn't suffer the same thing I suffered.
Then the night of the bus boycott on December the fifth, I told the people there I had been fighting like that for all these years.
I said, "Tonight I change my mind."
I said, "Hell, I want to enjoy some of this stuff myself."
And man, you ought to have heard people holler.
NARRATOR: The keynote speaker at Holt Street Church was a new preacher in town, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was only 26 and was almost unknown outside his own congregation.
King wasn't sure he should accept when his fellow ministers and other leaders asked him to head the new Montgomery Improvement Association and the boycott, but they wanted him in part because he was new in Montgomery.
The Reverend King was a young man, a very intelligent young man.
He had not been here long enough for the city fathers to put their hand on him.
Martin said, "Well, um... you know, "I'm not sure I'm the best person for this position "since I'm new in the community, "but if no one else is going to serve, "you know, someone has to do it and I'd be glad to...
I'd be glad to try to do it."
And of course, I guess everybody then assured him they wanted him so he came home very excited about the fact that he had to give the keynote speech that night at the mass meeting.
He only had 20 minutes to prepare his speech.
We, the disinherited of this land, we who have been oppressed so long, are tired of going through the long night of captivity and now we are reaching out for the daybreak of freedom and justice and equality.
(cheering and applause) The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest...
KING: That's all.
And certainly, certainly this is the glory of America with all of its faults.
And we are not wrong.
We are not wrong in what we are doing.
If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong.
(applause) If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong.
CROWD (applauding): Yes!
KING: If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong.
(loud cheering and applause) MAN: We had never seen a crowd like that before.
It took 15 minutes before the people would sit down and become quiet and let us begin the meeting.
And I can tell you the name of the first song that we sang, and it was "What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."
CONGREGATION: ♪ What a fellowship, what a joy divine ♪ ♪ Leaning on the everlasting arms.
♪ NARRATOR: Before the boycott, two-thirds of the bus riders were black.
After December 5, there were almost no blacks at the segregated bus stops or on the buses.
They walked and they created a complex system that used private cars to carry thousands of people each day.
We asked for persons who had cars and would voluntarily put them in the transportation pool to let us know and what time they could be used.
And in that way we could know when we would have cars and where they had to go to pick up people.
People would call in and say, "I'm out here on Cloverdale Road on such-and-such a block, and I'll be ready at such-and-such a time."
But this was being done all through the day.
And we would know what time they were supposed to be picked up and where they were.
It was really surprising, because we thought, well, maybe some of the people would continue to ride the bus.
But after all, they had been mistreated and been mistreated in so many different ways until I guess they were tired, and they just decided that they just wouldn't ride.
NARRATOR: The black community was inspired by its own success.
They held meetings with the mayor and the bus company and found they could stand up to the city commissioners.
At first we didn't even ask for desegregation.
We only asked for a more humane system of segregation on the buses.
And when the opposition refused to grant that, then we realized that they wouldn't grant anything anyway, so we might as well ask for, you know, complete desegregation.
And that's what we went for and we realized we had to go for broke, so to speak.
NARRATOR: By this time, the boycott had lasted longer than anyone expected.
A wave of violence started-- shots fired at buses, bombs thrown at Martin King's home and E.D.
INTERVIEWER: You've had some rather personal and trying experiences yourself.
Are you afraid?
No, I'm not.
My attitude is that this is a great cause, it is a great issue that we are confronted with, and that the consequences for my personal life are not particularly important.
It is the triumph of the cause that I'm concerned about.
And I have always felt that ultimately along the way of life an individual must stand up and be counted and be willing to face the consequences, whatever they are.
And if he is filled with fear, he cannot do it.
We thought that you could just shame America.
"So now America, look at your promises "and look at how you're treating your poor Negro citizens.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
But, you know, you can't shame segregation.
You can't, uh... rattlesnakes don't commit suicide.
Ball teams don't strike themselves out.
You've got to put them out.
NARRATOR: The nightly mass meetings in church were the backbone of the boycott.
CORETTA KING: The mass meetings usually were attended by the maids and cooks and janitors and people who really used the buses a lot.
And they would be there singing and praying for hours sometimes before the program actually started, the main part of the mass meeting.
AUDIENCE: ♪ With the cross of Jesus ♪ Going on before ♪ Christ the royal master... GILMORE: I attended just about all of them.
I was really very interested in it because you could go and you could learn about so many things that you didn't know exist and so many people would tell you how they were being mistreated and they were glad that they were able to come up and not have to take the same treatments that they was, had taken and was afraid to admit.
The fear left.
The fear that had shackled us across the years all left suddenly when we were in that church together.
Dr. Abernathy would speak first usually.
And he had the ability to really make them laugh and maybe make them cry some.
He really knew how to, you know, kind of get them in the mood.
This show... is your show.
(audience shouts) Not only is this show the show of Negroes in Montgomery, but this is the show of Negroes all over America.
And then I want to go a little farther than that and tell you that truly this show is the show of all... freedom-loving people all over the world.
(wild cheering) CORETTA KING: I guess you'd call it a kind of folksy quality.
He was able to do that because that was a part of his style, whereas with Martin, he was more, um...
I guess what you would consider, uh... formal.
And he would come along with a very thoughtful message.
Let me urge you to be sane and rational.
Eventually segregation in public transportation will pass away... eventually.
And I think we should start now preparing for the inevitable.
And let us, when that moment comes, go into the situations that we confront with a great deal of dignity, sanity and reasonableness.
It's very hard for a ordinary person to describe Reverend King's speaking ability because he was such an outstanding man.
He could... he could make you feel what he was saying as well as hearing what he was saying.
He was sincere and dedicated.
He could lift you out your seat.
You couldn't, you couldn't... you couldn't just be quiet, look like.
It was such a stirring thing that it would affect you.
It'd just go right through you.
So I can't say much more than that because it's such a stimulating thing.
And he was carried away, look like, with his own speech.
Dr. King spoke with a new voice.
Not only was it a new movement, but it was a new voice-- that you must love; you must not hate the people who hate or who act like they hate you.
You must... and the best thing to make out of your enemy is a friend.
So this had a very profound effect upon not only blacks but whites at this time.
You are not going to permit the N.A.A.C.P.
to control your state.
(cheering) NARRATOR: As the boycott entered its second month, the white community's position hardened.
There were whites who were sympathetic to the boycott, but many more were not.
A segregationist group called the White Citizens' Council held huge rallies and vastly increased its membership, becoming the largest organization in white Montgomery.
They targeted anyone, black or white, who supported desegregation.
90% of the white people in Alabama are for segregation, but in the last few years, we have had quite a number of "backsliders," you might say, that for political reasons, to further their political ambitions, have been trying to garner the Negro vote and would do most anything to get that vote.
The Citizens' Council is out to utterly destroy those people.
The thing that kept the whites going was segregation-- was the old way.
Don't break the old way, don't break this fabric.
Don't break down segregation.
Don't take this away, this Old South.
Don't take back the things that we've always known and that we fought a war over these things and that our forefathers would have us do this.
NARRATOR: Despite the pressure, the buses remained empty.
The black leaders decided the boycott might weaken if they didn't respond quickly to the violence.
They filed suit in federal court, claiming that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
White officials retaliated by indicting almost 90 black leaders under an old anti-boycott law.
The tactic backfired.
Suddenly, the national press was very interested in the story and in the eloquent Martin Luther King, Jr. We still feel that we are right and that we stand within our constitutional rights in the protest.
We still advocate nonviolence with passive resistance and still determined to use the weapon of love.
WOMAN: ♪ Jesus is with me.
♪ Whoa, yes... NARRATOR: Armed with the weapon of nonviolent resistance, Montgomery's blacks kept walking, month after month after month.
MAN: How many miles do you think you've walked?
Oh, about seven, eight miles a day-- maybe longer, further than that, because, you know, going and coming it made a great deal, distant.
Ever tempted to take a ride from... No, uh-uh, no, but if sometime we would be out on the road coming home, well, there'd be a white lady come along and pick us up and carry us so far.
And we would thank her for it, we would be very glad, and we would offer her pay, but she wouldn't take it.
The strange thing that happened was a kind of a play between white women and black women.
The mayor of the town issued an order saying if the white women would just stop carrying their maids back and forth that the boycott would be ended.
And so, I don't say all of them, but some of them replied and said, "Well, if he wants to come out and do my cooking and laundry and nurse the children and clean up, he can."
So the white women went and got them in the car.
They said they did it because the bus had broken down or any excuse you could possibly think of.
Well, I would have to say that there were many sympathetic whites who knew that the system was wrong and they would do what they could to help to correct it.
CHOIR: ♪ Oh, Jesus is with me ♪ Jesus is with me, oh yeah ♪ When I need him most ♪ Jesus is with me ♪ Jesus is with me, oh yeah ♪ When I need him most... We, you know, a lot of times some of the young whites would come along and they would say, "Nigger, don't you know it's better to ride the bus than it is to walk?"
And we would say, "No, cracker, no, we'd rather walk."
(laughing) CHOIR: ♪ ...All of my working day.
NARRATOR: April 1956-- the boycott was four months old.
In other states, lawsuits and black pressure were breaking down bus segregation, but not in Alabama.
We expect the city bus lines of Montgomery and the people of Montgomery to continue to obey all segregation laws as written.
I have this day issued orders to the chief of police and the police department to continue to make arrests in all violations with reference to the segregation laws.
Several Southern cities, including Richmond, Virginia, Little Rock, Arkansas, Dallas, Texas, and others have ended segregation on city buses and white and Negro passengers rode together on front seats without incidents, mishaps or disturbances.
The public officials of the city of Montgomery and of the state of Alabama intend to obey the segregation laws of the city of Montgomery and we, the Negro citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, do now, and will continue, to carry on our mass protest... (wild cheering) NARRATOR: June 1956-- six months.
There had been boycotts before-- in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, three years before; even in Montgomery itself, 50 years before.
None had lasted so long, with so much support.
In Tallahassee, Florida, another boycott started.
It was so effective that the bus company was forced to shut down operations.
It was clear the boycotts hurt the bus companies, businesses and the cities.
It was not clear if they could end segregation.
September 1956-- nine months.
The Klan in Montgomery held a series of highly visible rallies.
(horn honking) They want to throw white children and colored children into the melting pot of integration out of which will come a conglomerated mulatto, mongrel class of people!
Both races will be destroyed in such a movement.
(crowd cheering) NARRATOR: Many in the black community were frightened, but they kept walking-- ten months, eleven months.
The boycott's second Christmas was approaching.
Downtown stores were hurt, but neither the city nor the marchers would compromise.
On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court broke the deadlock, ruling unanimously that Montgomery's bus segregation was unconstitutional.
That day, the Ku Klux Klan rode and walked the black neighborhoods again.
This time, the blacks just watched, unmoved and unafraid.
The decision rendered by the Supreme Court yesterday was a victory.
But it wasn't a victory for colored folks.
Don't make that victory that small.
It wasn't a victory for 50,000 Negroes in Montgomery.
It wasn't merely a victory for 16 million Negroes of America.
That was a victory for justice and goodwill.
Now what will be our mode of action in the light of this decision?
After thinking through this question very seriously, the executive board of the Montgomery Improvement Association recommends that the 11-month-old protest against the city buses will be called off and that the Negro citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, will return to the buses on a non-segregated basis.
(applause and cheering) Are you ready for the question?
All in favor, let it be known by standing on your feet.
It seems that it is carried unanimously.
(applause and cheering) AZBELL: Because you get to understand that God is with you, that God can take care of you and that this is God's way, and you are there to do it.
Now, I think that's a sense of drive.
That's what many people don't understand about what happened back in the Deep South-- that here I am... that this is my duty.
I've got to do something.
And God is with me.
And if God is with me, how can you lose, leaning on the everlasting arm?
MAN: ♪ Oh, what a beautiful city ♪ Oh, what a beautiful city ♪ Oh, what a beautiful city...
When the bus boycott was over, the people just... the blacks got on the bus to sit on the front seat just to show off.
And they had a lot of fun, sitting on the front seat, riding to the college or riding away from the college.
Nobody sat in the back then, because all of them sat on the front.
It was a jubilation.
It was a joy.
♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh, what a beautiful... ♪ ♪ Oh... ♪ Oh, Lord, what a beautiful city... ♪ ROBINSON: We had won self-respect.
We had forced the white man We had forced the white man to give what we knew was a part of our own citizenship.
And so we had won back.
And if you have never had the feeling, to feel that this is not the other man's country and you are an alien in it, but that this is your country, too, then you don't know what I'm talking about.
But it is a hilarious feeling But it is a hilarious feeling that just goes all over you, that makes you feel that America is a great country and we're going to do more to make it greater.
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(singing and organ continue)