01
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-1-2008: Rosa Parks

December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks ignites bus boycott

In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience.

“The mother of the civil rights movement,” as Rosa Parks is known, was born in Tuskeegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African Americans were required to sit at the back of public buses and were also obligated to give up those seats to white riders if the front of the bus filled up. Parks was in the first row of the black section when the white driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white man. Parks’ refusal was spontaneous but was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend. In fact, local civil rights leaders had been planning a challenge to Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion.

Learning of Parks’ arrest, the NAACP and other African American activists immediately called for a bus boycott to be held by black citizens on Monday, December 5. Word was spread by fliers, and activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the protest. The first day of the bus boycott was a great success, and that night the 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told a large crowd gathered at a church, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.” King emerged as the leader of the bus boycott and received numerous death threats from opponents of integration. At one point, his home was bombed, but he and his family escaped bodily harm.

The boycott stretched on for more than a year, and participants carpooled or walked miles to work and school when no other means were possible. As African Americans previously constituted 70 percent of the Montgomery bus ridership, the municipal transit system suffered gravely during the boycott. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama state and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On December 20, King issued the following statement: “The year old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” The boycott ended the next day. Rosa Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his nonviolent civil rights movement had won its first great victory. There would be many more to come.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005. Three days later the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

“Rosa Parks ignites bus boycot.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Dec 2008, 11:45 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7098.

On This Day

1913 – Ford Motor Co. began using a new movable assembly line that ushered in the era of mass production.

1925 – The Locarno Pact finalized the treaties between World War I protagonists.

1934 – Sergei M. Kirov, a collaborator of Joseph Stalin, was assassinated at the Leningrad party headquarters.

1942 – In the U.S., nationwide gasoline rationing went into effect.

1943 – In Teheran, leaders of the United States, the USSR and the United Kingdom met to reaffirm the goal set on October 30, 1943. The previous meeting called for an early establishment of an international organization to maintain peace and security.

1959 – 12 countries, including the U.S. and USSR, signed a treaty that set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, which would be free from military activity.

1969 – The U.S. government held its first draft lottery since World War II.

1987 – NASA announced four companies had been given contracts to help build a space station. The companies were Boeing Aerospace, G. E.’s Astro-Space Division, McDonnell Douglas Aeronautics, and Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International.

1989 – East Germany’s Parliament abolished the Communist Party’s constitutional guarantee of supremacy.

1990 – British and French workers digging the Channel Tunnel finally met under the English Channel.

1998 – Exxon announced that it was buying Mobil for $73.7 billion creating the largest company in the world to date.

December 1, 1824

Presidential election goes to the House

As no presidential candidate had received a majority of the total electoral votes in the election of 1824, Congress decides to turn over the presidential election to the House of Representatives, as dictated by the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the November 1824 election, 131 electoral votes, just over half of the 261 total, were necessary to elect a candidate president. Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the election, popular votes were counted for the first time in this election. On December 1, 1824, the results were announced. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams–the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States–received 84 electoral and 108,740 popular votes; Secretary of State William H. Crawford, who had suffered a stroke before the election, received 41 electoral votes; and Representative Henry Clay of Virginia won 37 electoral votes.

As dictated by the Constitution, the election was then turned over to the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Thanks to Clay’s backing, on February 9, 1825, the House elected Adams as president of the United States. When Adams then appointed Clay to the top cabinet post of secretary of state, Jackson and his supporters derided the appointment as the fulfillment of a corrupt agreement.

With little popular support, Adams’ time in the White House was largely ineffectual, and the so-called Corrupt Bargain haunted his administration. In 1828, he was defeated in his reelection bid by Andrew Jackson, who received more than twice as many electoral votes than Adams.

“Presidential election goes to the House.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 Dec 2008, 11:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5564.

On This Day in Wisconsin

1884 – Fire Destroys UW Building
On this date fire destroyed Science Hall on the UW-Madison campus. As a result, engineering students were forced to use the cramped space of the former dormitory, North Hall, for the next four semesters. [Source: College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison]

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