Transportation segregation protests go as far back as 1841 with Frederick Douglass and the Eastern Railroad.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a massive success lead by the 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. It was possible because of the years of groundwork led by Jo Ann Robinson and the Woman’s Political Council around the Jim Crow laws in regards to the bus system. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a city bus. A tremendous 382-day Montgomery Bus Boycott ensued, ending with the US Supreme Court declaring bus segregation unconstitutional. This proved to the people of the south, as well as the world, that non-violent mass protest could successfully challenge racial segregation.
Dr. King was asked to become president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), which was formed days after Rosa Parks was arrested for the purpose of continuing and organizing the Boycott. As pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, the organizers looked to Dr. King as a strong leader for the movement. As President, he was instrumental in determining that the boycott would continue until demands were met. Those included: Black passengers should be treated with courtesy. Seating should be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis, with white passengers sitting from front to back and black passengers sitting from back to front. And, African American drivers should drive routes that primarily serviced African Americans.
The boycott lasted until December 20, 1956 and Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrust into the spotlight.
Background re: MLK, Jr.
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister, and the most recognized leader of the American Civil Rights Movment until his assassination on April 4, 1968. Throughout his adult life he championed non violent resistance and civil disobedience as means of protest toward Civil Rights abuses, primarily toward African American Citizens. His influence using these techniques carried over to poverty, segregated housing, and Vietnam war issues, and resulted in him being arrested multiple times. He was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (SCLC) organizing it, unsuccessfully, in a struggle against segregation in 1962 in Albany, GA. He helped organize the nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.