In the 1940s, a collective of Black professionals called the Women’s Political Council (WPC) forged a line of defense against anti-Black oppression in Montgomery, Alabama. For years, they collected and brought bus rider complaints to city officials before eventually threatening a 25-organization-wide boycott in 1954.
Then, another threat: Rosa Parks.
Excitement built up in the days leading up to Parks’ trial. Residents marked the date, December 5, 1955, for a one-day boycott.
But that night, energy still prickled in the air. 6,000 people attended a meeting at a local church, deciding they weren’t done. They’d continue boycotting - however long it would take. They named themselves the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), with Martin Luther King, Jr. as their president.
From transportation and negotiation to media and education, the MIA blossomed into specialized committees, bolstering their movement for the long haul. Each committee assigned roles, like secretaries and decision-makers. And the momentum didn’t die.
They continued gathering in person, not only to organize boycott logistics but to motivate each other to keep going with music and speeches. 60-80% of Montgomery’s 50,000 Black Americans participated.
The 381-day boycott was collective, organized, strategic, and empowering. It became a historical victory and blueprint for today’s liberation movements.
We deserve to learn about the full scope of how it operated and continue to use the MIA's wisdom as a blueprint for our efforts today.