In Alabama, you don’t have to look any further than state history to understand the power of a protest. More than 60 years ago hundreds of black Montgomery residents nearly crippled the city through a concerted effort that became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
For more than a year, black residents refused to ride the buses, withholding their ridership – and money – until the day they were given equal treatment on the city’s public transportation lines. Rain or shine, they skipped the bus and made their voices heard to devastating effect.
Stories of the boycott have been recounted numerous times and recorded in the history books. But there are books no one has ever been able to peer into. No one researching history about that event has ever been able to find the original financial ledgers of the bus company to see the brutally efficient effects of the boycott.
But amazingly, the information survived through the years, neatly tucked away in an attic, almost forgotten until decades later when a little girl needed something to talk about for a school project in another state.
It was 1955. The bus boycott was taking hold in Alabama’s capital city. Black residents of Montgomery made the decision to walk to their destination instead of taking any rides by city bus. It was a courageous, year-long show of solidarity, and the powerful movement nearly bankrupted the bus company at the center of the controversy.
“Oh, they lost a lot of money…” explained Diane Carmichael. While born several years after the boycott, Carmichael is familiar with its impact in a way few others can claim. She’s had numerous conversations over the years with her father about her grandfather, James H. Bagley.
Now Bagley’s name may not evoke the type of familiar memories history gave to others like Rosa Parks, but he was right at the center of the tug-of-war. While Parks stepped onto a bus and rode it into history, Bagley managed the bus company her actions would soon put in a major financial bind.
If you dealt with the Montgomery City Lines bus company in 1955, you dealt with James H. Bagley, long experienced with Montgomery transportation since the days of the streetcar.
“Well, it’s kind of a crazy story,” Carmichael admits about how she learned of the existence of her grandfather’s meticulous records.
Now a resident of Atlanta, she recalls a 2008 school project in which her daughter had to do a presentation for her…