Volume 3: Birth of a New Age,
"Statement of Negro Citizens on Bus Situation"
[10 December 1955]
We have heretofore stated the position of the Negro Citizens of Montgomery with reference to the local bus situation. As good citizens we want to comply with the law until the law is changed or is over-ruled. However, we feel that we have the right to insist that the law be fairly administered.
In answer to our request that the Montgomery City Lines adopt a policy of loading busses from rear to front with colored passengers and from front to rear with white passengers and that all passengers be permitted to retain their seats on a "first come--first served" basis, without reservation of seats for any particular race, the bus company contends that such an arrangement would be in violation of the law and particularly the Act of July 18, 1947, (General Acts of Alabama, 1947, #130, Page 40).
In answer to this contention we would like to call attention to the pertinent provision of Section 1, of this Act, which reads as follows:
We believe that this Act was not intended to apply to busses operating within a single municipality, but only to those under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission. However, it should be noted that under the provisions quoted the method of handling the seating of passengers is left entirely to the transportation companies themselves. They are authorized andempowered to provide separate accommodations but are not directed or required to take any action whatsoever.
The Legislature, it seems clear, wisely left it up to the transportation companies to work out the seating problem in a reasonable and practical way, subject to the limitations of reasonableness and equality of treatment to all passengers, regardless of race.
It should be further noted that even under the City Code of Montgomery (Chapter 6, Section 10 and 11) no person, white or colored, can be required to give up a seat unless there is a vacant seat in the portion of the bus to which the passenger is assigned.
We feel that there is no issue between the Negro citizens and the Montgomery City Lines that cannot be solved by negotiations between people of good will and we submit that there is no legal barrier to such negotiations.
The Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.