Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

In June of 1956, both Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Philip Randolph were speakers for the Forty-Seventh Annual NAACP Convention in San Francisco.  King’s Message for this Occasion was the telling of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was then in progress.  Just six months earlier, on December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to move.  The following Monday, December 5, the Ministers came together across denominational lines at Holt Street Baptist Church.

King relayed to the NAACP Convention that by three o’clock that Montgomery Monday, hundreds of people started assembling in the church.  By 7 pm the gathering was estimated at more than five thousand, overflowing into the streets.  By the end of the meeting, The Montgomery Improvement Association was born.  In organizing the Bus Boycott the Resolution adopted stated that Negro passengers would refuse to ride buses until: there is an improvement in the courtesy extended by the operators; a change in the seating arrangements; and Negro bus operators employed on predominantly Negro lines.

King told the Convention that Montgomery is the story of a handsome little city known as the cradle of the Confederacy.  The story of a little town grappling with a new and creative approach to the crisis in race relations.  A visitor to Montgomery prior to last December, heard bus operators referring to Negro passengers as “niggers”, “black apes”, and “black cows”.  Negro passengers were required to get on at the front door, pay their fare, get off and go to the back door to board the bus. Often the bus rode off with his fare.  Negro passengers would stand over unoccupied seats Reserved “whites Only” Section.  In the Unreserved Sections, Seats had to be given to Whites or be arrested.

“The Montgomery Story”, King said, “began in 1619 with the Negro slaves first landing on the shores of this nation who, unlike the Pilgrim fathers who landed at Plymouth a year later, were brought here against their wills. For more than two hundred years Africa was raped and plundered, her native kingdoms disorganized, her people and rulers demoralized, and the whole continent inflicted with pains and burdens hardly paralleled by any race of people in the whole history of the civilized world.”  Negro slaves were treated as inhuman.  Things to be used.  De-personalized cogs in the plantation machine. Dred Scott decision of 1857 Supreme Court affirmed the Negro was not a citizen of the United States; but property subject to the dictates of his owner.

Human nature cannot continue wrong without rationalization.  Obvious evil covered up in righteousness.  Psychologist William James talk about the stream of consciousness. (James)  Man has a unique capacity of blocking the stream of consciousness to justify the rightness of the wrong.  Slave owners fell victim to the danger that forever confronts religion.  From pulpits all over the nation argued that the Negro was inferior by nature.

In time the Negro lost faith in himself.  Then fear that less than human.  Tragedy of physical slavery is mental slavery.  Negro accepted this place assigned racial peace was maintained.  Uneasy peace.  Negro forced to accept injustice, insult and exploitation.

Something happened.  Negro reevaluate themselves.  Religion revealed God loves all of his children.  South’s negative peace undermined.  Tension.  Revolutionary change in Negro’s evaluation of his nature and destiny.  That is bottom meaning of the Montgomery story.  New Negro, new sense of destiny.

The City Commission didn’t work within the segregation law.  Necessary for young attorney, Fred Gray, go federal court: ruled the other day segregation in public transportation in Alabama is unconstitutional.

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