This post starts my week long feature of Russell Freedman, Newbery Honor and Award Winning author of over 50 books. Check back here every day this week, with a special bibliography of his works and awards at the end of the week.

Title: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Author: Russell Freedman
ISBN: 0823420310
Pages: 111 pages
Publisher/Date: Holiday House, c2006.

Every day, as many as 40,000 blacks rode Montgomery’s public buses, along with some 12,000 whites. The first ten seats of every bus were reserved for white riders, with the last twenty-six available to blacks. But the dividing line between the white and black sections wasn’t fixed. The driver had the power to expand the white section and shrink the black section by ordering blacks to give up their seats to whites.
As white passengers boarded the bus and dropped their dimes into the fare box, they took seats in the front. Black passengers were not allowed to walk past the white section after paying their fare. Instead, they had to get off the bus and reenter through the back door. […]
The bus system was a bitter daily reminder of enforced segregation in Montgomery. […] Even when not a single white passenger was on board, the front ten seats in every bus were reserved for whites, just in case one or two did ride. Often black riders jammed the aisle of a bus, standing over those empty seats, where they dared not sit down. (8-9)

Renowned author Russell Freedman seems to have compiled a thorough and in-depth look at the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. He starts the story not with Rosa Parks, and not with Claudette Colvin (who we all know of now thanks to Phillip Hoose’s biography of the woman published last year), but instead with Jo Ann Robinson, another little known name in the civil rights movement. Back in December of 1949, Jo Ann Robinson was verbally abused on a bus while heading to visit relatives in Cleveland. Upon her return to the city, she joined the Women’s Political Council, became president less than a year later, and turned their focus to segregated seating on the buses. Claudette Colvin and another woman, Mary Louise Smith, were two people the organization considered to back in a court case against the legality of bus segregation, but they ultimately choose to back Rosa Park five years later. I also appreciate the fact that Freedman does not focus solely on Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but brings other names to light that we don’t hear about as frequently, such as Robert Graetz, the white minister of an all-black Lutheran church, attorney Clifford Durr who helped organize Rosa Parks’s legal defense, and white librarian Juliette Morgan who wrote to the newspapers in support of the bus boycott and endured death threats as a result. Some of the pictures found in the book are used in other books (like the picture of a teenager being attacked by a police dog), but it’s the reporting of the events during the year long boycott and the struggles the participants endured that sets this book apart.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Anamaria over at http://bookstogether.squarespace.com.

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