Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Part Five: Social Transformation?
  1. Opening Activity: Give students one or more of the following quotes about the philosophy of nonviolence. Ask them to read the King Encyclopedia entry on the Philosophy of Nonviolence. Instruct the students to put the philosophy in their own words and apply it to an event in their own lives.
  2. Classroom Activity: Using the Document Analysis Worksheet read and analyze the Statement on the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Integrated Bus Suggestions. Ask students to identify examples of the philosophy of nonviolence within the Integrated Bus Suggestions.
  3. Classroom Activity: View the Eyes on the Prize segment about the Montgomery bus boycott. Ask students to choose one image that represents the effectiveness of the philosophy of nonviolence and another that shows how the boycott transformed individual citizens or the city of Montgomery.
  4. Discussion/Reflection Questions: What is the philosophy of nonviolence? In what ways does nonviolent direct action lead to social transformation? Who is transformed by nonviolent direct action? How does the following quote reflect King's commitment to nonviolence?

    "This morning the long awaited mandate from the United States Supreme Court concerning bus segregation came to Montgomery. Our experience and growth during this past year of united nonviolent protest has been of such that we cannot be satisfied with a court 'victory' over our white brothers. We must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understandings. We seek an integration based on mutual respect." Martin Luther King, Jr. 20th December, 1956

  5. Classroom Activity: In Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, Alana D. Murray describes the ingredients for social movements and strategy. She identifies the Montgomery bus boycott as an ideal model. Drawing on what they have learned over the last few days, ask students to choose specific examples to coincide with each of the key ingredients. Next ask students to identify a current injustice and choose a strategy based on the key ingredients. Model for Social Movement Handout.
  6. Debate Resolution: The philosophy of nonviolence, in the form of a bus boycott, was successful in transforming the institutional racism in Montgomery, Alabama. The debate can be organized in a number of ways. You can split students into groups of 2-4 and ask them to prepare affirmative and negative arguments supported by examples. You may also split the class in half and ask students to participate in a discussion of the statement. Finally, you may ask students to write individual responses.


  Documents:     Resources and Handouts:  
  Assignment Options:        
  • Create a timeline of the major events in the boycott. You may use the documents or readings from this unit. The following resources will also be helpful; Montgomery Chronology, King Encyclopedia.

· Did the citizens of Montgomery achieve justice, social transformation and/or reconciliation as a result of their nonviolent direct action?
· Some have described the Montgomery bus boycott as the beginning of the civil rights movement. Is that an accurate description? How should the boycott be situated in the broader black freedom struggle? How should it be told?

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