HISTORY: The Birth of the Modern Civil Rights Movement in America
The arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955, for her refusal to yield her seat on a Montgomery public transit bus to a white man, in defiance of local segregation laws, provided the impetus for change in the city and the nation. Organizations such as the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP and ultimately the Montgomery Improvement Association mobilized to use Parks’ arrest as an opportunity to challenge Montgomery’s unjust segregation laws.
The day after Parks’ arrest, some 50 men met at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and planned a one-day bus boycott for the following Monday, December 5. They also planned for a citywide meeting to be held that same evening to decide future action. The Rev. A.W. Wilson, pastor of Holt Street Baptist Church, offered his church as the site for the mass meeting. Meanwhile, more than a dozen men met at Mount Zion A.M.E. Zion Church on the afternoon of December 5 and formed the Montgomery Improvement Association, naming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as its president.
Following a day of virtually empty buses rolling through the streets of Montgomery, an estimated 5,000 people met at Holt Street Baptist Church, spilling over into the streets, parking lots and surrounding area. From this meeting, one of the most successful boycotts in history was launched, directed for its duration by Dr. King. Thus, the modern Civil Rights Movement was born.
The organizational strategy of the Montgomery Bus Boycott provided a model for civil rights activism throughout the country for the next two decades. Black Montgomerians, through courage, dignity and nonviolent action, helped to effect societal change and to ensure freedom and justice for all.
The Holt Street Baptist Church Historical Society aims to preserve the history of
the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the movement it launched through the creation and maintenance of a museum to be housed in the church where thousands gathered in support of the boycott. The museum will serve as a repository of historical materials on the boycott and Holt Street Baptist Church and as an information center with small exhibitions on the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and Alabama. It is the society’s goal, through this educational, cultural and research center, to sustain the rich heritage and history of Holt Street Baptist Church, the movement in Montgomery and Alabama, and the church’s role in it.
The society seeks to promote understanding of the role of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the struggle to gain civil rights for people of color in this country, and to augment their participation in the democratic process and the free enterprise system