Content thumbnail Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr.
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1 “The Stirring of the Water” I think the Negroes are stirring and they won’t be held down much longer. —Virginia Durr, 1951 Racially integrated events rarely occurred in Montgomery, but for sev- eral years both whites and blacks gathered together at the city’s spacious Cramton Bowl for an Easter sunrise celebration. Segregated seating ap- plied at the municipal arena, but the all-white planning committee worked to include African American preachers in the program as they developed the service. Typically a black minister delivered a prayer and an African American choral group from a local school led the audience in a few tra- ditional spirituals while whites presented the balance of the program, in- cluding the sermon. The 1952 gathering proved to be the last, however. Despite steady rainfall, city bus drivers found it more convenient to drop off their black passengers several blocks from the entrance to the event. Even if the weather had not dampened spirits, the discourteous treatment they experienced at the hands of the bus drivers certainly did. Some did not stay for the service, and many more lobbied their ministers to put together all-black sunrise services in the future. Portia Trenholm, the wife of the president of Alabama State College, claimed this was “the very first spontaneous protest as a result of discourteous treatment on the buses.” The following year the black clergy bowed out of the planning process, and African Americans attended a separate sunrise service on the Alabama 1 State College campus. This act of protest on the part of the black citizenry of Montgomery reveals their willingness to act collectively to resist mistreatment at the hands of white bus drivers. While this action may have seemed incon- sequential at the time, it demonstrates a discernible spirit of resistance among African Americans in the city by the middle of the twentieth cen- 9

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