Boycotts A form of non-violent Resistance during the civil rights era

A "boycott" is a type of non-violent protest where a person abstains from buying, using, or dealing with another person, organization, or country as an expression of protest. The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, to try to pressure the target to alter an objectionable behavior.

The inspiration for a boycott arose on December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks infamously refused to give up her seat to a white person. Despite being told numerous times by the driver and the police to get out of her seat, she sat defiantly before being escorted off the bus to jail. This was considered the final straw for black community. Rosa Parks described the day: "All I was doing was to get home from work", "I had no idea history was being made, I was just tired of giving up".

On December 5, 1955, the most infamous boycott during the Civil Rights era began: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. The ultimate goal was for the bus company to change their segregation policy of blacks giving up their seat to white people. The African American community decided to draw attention to their cause by refusing to ride the buses, thereby causing the company to lose money. The boycott was successful. On December 20, 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation policies were unconstitutional.

Newspaper Article on the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus and in front of a white person after the Montgomery Bus Boycott successfully integrated public transportation.

On March 31, 1960, the President of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP organized a boycott on Kress after the company kept excluding African Americans from lunch counters. Boycotts at restaurants also happened to Woolworth's, Rexall, and other national chains

After the 1964 season, the AFL (before the NFL merger) was hosting the All-Star Game in New Orleans, Louisiana. However, after African American players were refused service and disrespected at numerous New Orleans hotels and business, the AFL declared a boycott in New Orleans. Led by Buffalo Bills players including Cookie Gilchrist, the boycott successfully moved the All-Star Game to Houston, Texas.

In 1960, on Dryades St. New Orleans, LA, there were stores owned by white people, whereas the customers were predominately African American. Blacks could shop at the stores, but were unable to be employed in the stores unless they wanted to be a janitor. Three black men formed the Consumers' League of Greater New Orleans to end employment discrimination and segregation in the area. The newly formed organization therefore created a boycott a day before Easter. Because of the boycott, some stores closed or moved to other suburbs rather than hire blacks, while other blacks shopped elsewhere. However, many blacks were hired at all levels of employment, so the boycott can be viewed as a success.

In 1963, Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference started the Birmingham campaign to end discriminatory economic policies in Alabama. They boycotted businesses that only hired white people or had segregated restrooms. The protesters had sit-ins and marches with the goal of getting arrested which would create crowded jails. This created a burden to the police and the courts and brought national attention to their cause. As a result of their campaign, many segregation signs in Birmingham went down, and public places became more open to all races.


Negro Groups Ready Boycott. Montgomery: n.p., 1955. Print.

Hudson, Bill. 1963. The New York Times, Birmingham, Alabama.

1960 Consumers' Boycott on Dryades St. 1960. The Louisiana Weekly, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Boycott of the 1965 American Football League All-start Game. 2014. Black History Facts 365, n.p.

Rally539x375.png. N.d. East Baton Rouge Parish Library, n.p.

Thousands of Black Commuters Are Shown Walking Long Distances to Work Instead of Riding the Buses during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1956. 1956. Amistad Digital Resource, Montgomery, Alabama.

Rosa Parks Arrest. 1955. Montgomery, Alabama.

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Aaron Kelly

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