and fined $10 and assessed $4 court fee.

On the night Rosa Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local NAACP chapter met with Martin Luther King, Jr. and other local civil rights leaders to plan a city-wide bus boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott because he was young, well-trained with solid family connections and had professional standing. But he was also new to the community and had few enemies,

Early Years
Advanced Education and Spiritual Growth
Montgomery bus boycott
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference
I Have a Dream
Assassination and Legacy

so it was felt he would have strong credibility with the black community. In his first speech as the group’s president, King declared:

“We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s fresh and skillful rhetoric put a new energy into the civil rights struggle in Alabama. The bus boycott would be 382 days of walking to work, harassment, violence and intimidation for the Montgomery’s African American community. Both King’s and E.D. Nixon’s homes were attacked. But the African American community also took legal action against the city ordinance arguing that it was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court’s “separate is never equal” decision in Brown v. Board of Education. After being defeated in several lower court rulings and suffering large financial losses, the city of Montgomery lifted the law mandating segregated public transportation.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Flush with this victory, African American civil rights leaders recognized the need for a national organization to help coordinate their efforts. In January, 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and 60 ministers and civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches. They would help conduct non-violent protests to promote civil rights reform. King’s participation in the organization gave him a base of operation throughout the South, as well as a national platform. The organization felt the best place to start to give African Americans a voice was to enfranchise them in the voting process. In February, 1958, SCLC sponsored over 20 mass meetings in key southern cities to register black voters in the South. King met with religious and civil rights leaders and lectured all over the country on race-related issues.

In 1959, with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, and inspired by Gandhi’s success with non-violent activism, Martin Luther King visited Gandhi’s birthplace in India. The trip affected him in a deeply profound way, increasing his commitment to America’s civil rights struggle. African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who had studied Gandhi’s teachings, became one of