The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was organized on December 5, 1955. The spark for its creation was the arrest of Rosa Parks for failure to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, AL city bus.
E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr went and posted bail for Mrs. Parks and at the time Nixon asked her if they could use her experience to test the system. Mrs. Parks agreed, she had been a member and secretary of the NAACP so she was no stranger to the problems this might lead to and the price she may have to pay.
Nixon the next morning got on the phone and called approximately 18 prominent members of the black community to generate support for a bus boycott. Included in the group were Ralph Abernathy, H.Hubbard, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
On December 2 Jo Ann Robinson and the Women's Political Council distributed flyers calling for a boycott of the buses on the morning Parks was to appear in court.
On the morning of December 5, the boycott was almost total. Parks was convicted and an afternoon meeting by leaders at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was held to consider further action. The group voted to support a sustained protest and formed itself into the Montgomery Improvement Association. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president; Ralph D. Abernathy was elected vice president, and E.D. Nixon was elected treasurer. Rufus Lewis was named to head a transportation committee which would eventually organize the car pool of over 200 vehicles.
The Montgomery Improvement Association pledged to "protect, defend, encourage, enlighten, and assist the members of the black community against unfair treatment, prejudice, and unacceptable subordination." The organization was pledged to act in a Christian manner and to follow a doctrine of non-violence.
The MIA held scheduled weekly meetings and other meetings were held whenever needed. The group tried to negoitiate and end to the boycott with city officials but city officials would not be moved. Lawyer Fred Gray presented challenges to the segregation system in federal court while other MIA members raised funds, coordinated transportation for the boycott and kept citizens informed. Information about the boycott and the activities of the MIA was spread from the pulpit of the city's African-American churches.
The bus boycott was sucessfully carried out for a year. It was a year of struggle, but no one gained in and the movement even gained the support of a few whites who would provide cars and drive the car pool. Finally the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling forbidding the segregated seating on buses and the boycott ended on December 20, 1956.
The MIA led the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The MIA has continued over the years to meet on a monthly basis. The organization has been led since 1968 by Johnnie Carr. The MIA has an annual scholarship award and seeks to keep the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other civil rights events in the memory of all citizens.
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