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Stride Toward Freedom
Cover of Stride Toward Freedom
Stride Toward Freedom
The Montgomery Story
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The classic story of nonviolent resistance in America--the Montgomery bus boycott--written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s account of the first successful large-scale application of nonviolent resistance in America is comprehensive, revelatory, and intimate. King described his book as "the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth." It traces the phenomenal journey of a community, and shows how the twenty-six-year-old King, with his conviction for equality and nonviolence, helped transform the nation--and the world.

The classic story of nonviolent resistance in America--the Montgomery bus boycott--written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s account of the first successful large-scale application of nonviolent resistance in America is comprehensive, revelatory, and intimate. King described his book as "the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth." It traces the phenomenal journey of a community, and shows how the twenty-six-year-old King, with his conviction for equality and nonviolence, helped transform the nation--and the world.

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  • From the book From Chapter III: The Decisive Arrest

    On December 1, 1955, an attractive Negro seamstress, Mrs. Rosa Parks, boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus in downtown Montgomery. She was returning home after her regular day's work in the Montgomery Fair, a leading department store. Tired from long hours on her feet, Mrs. Parks sat down in the first seat behind the section reserved for whites. Not long after she took her seat, the bus operator ordered her, along with three other Negro passengers, to move back in order to accommodate boarding white passengers. By this time every seat in the bus was taken. This meant that if Mrs. Parks followed the driver's command she would have to stand while a white male passenger, who had just boarded the bus, would sit. The other three Negro passengers immediately complied with the driver's request. But Mrs. Parks quietly refused. The result was her arrest.

    There was to be much speculation about why Mrs. Parks did not obey the driver. Many people in the white community argued that she had been "planted" by the NAACP in order to lay the groundwork for a test case, and at first glance that explanation seemed plausible, since she was a former secretary of the local branch of the NAACP. So persistent and persuasive was this argument that it convinced many reporters from all over the country. Later on, when I was having press conferences three times a week— in order to accommodate the reporters and journalists who came to Montgomery from all over the world—the invariable first question was: "Did the NAACP start the bus boycott?"

    But the accusation was totally unwarranted, as the testimony of both Mrs. Parks and the officials of the NAACP revealed. Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, "I can take it no longer." Mrs. Parks's refusal to move back was her intrepid affirmation that she had had enough. It was an individual expression of a timeless longing for human dignity and freedom. She was not "planted" there by the NAACP, or any other organization; she was planted there by her personal sense of dignity and self-respect. She was anchored to that seat by the accumulated indignities of days gone by and the boundless aspirations of generations yet unborn. She was a victim of both the forces of history and the forces of destiny. She had been tracked down by the zeitgeist—the spirit of the time.

    Fortunately, Mrs. Parks was ideal for the role assigned to her by history. She was a charming person with a radiant personality, soft-spoken and calm in all situations. Her character was impeccable and her dedication deep-rooted. All of these traits together made her one of the most respected people in the Negro community.

    Only E. D. Nixon—the signer of Mrs. Parks's bond— and one or two other persons were aware of the arrest when it occurred early Thursday evening. Later in the evening the word got around to a few influential women of the community, mostly members of the Women's Political Council. After a series of telephone calls back and forth they agreed that the Negroes should boycott the buses. They immediately suggested the idea to Nixon, and he readily concurred. In his usual courageous manner he agreed to spearhead the idea.

    Early Friday morning, December 2, Nixon called me. He was so caught up in what he was about to say that he forgot to greet me with the usual "hello" but plunged immediately into the story of what had happened to Mrs. Parks the night before. I listened, deeply shocked, as he...
About the Author-
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and architect of the nonviolent civil rights movement, was among the twentieth century's most influential figures. One of the greatest orators in U.S. history, King is the author of several books, including Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, The Trumpet of Conscience, Why We Can't Wait, and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? His speeches, sermons, and writings are inspirational and timeless. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

    Clayborne Carson is professor of history at Stanford University, the founding director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, and director of the King Papers Project. The author and editor of numerous books, he is general editorial advisor to The King Legacy and lives in Palo Alto, California.
Reviews-
  • Howard Zinn

    "Martin Luther King's early words return to us today with enormous power, as profoundly true, as wise and inspiring, now as when he wrote them fifty years ago."

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