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Encyclopedia > Women's Political Council

The Women's Political Council was an organization that was part of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Members included Mary Fair Burks, Jo Ann Robinson, Irene West, and Uretta Adair. The WPC was the first group to officially call for a boycott of the bus system during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King is perhaps most famous for his I Have a Dream speech given front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to a set of noted events and reform movements in the United States... Mary Fair Burks was an educator, scholar, and civil rights activist from Montgomery, Alabama. ... Jo Ann Robinson was a black woman in Montgomery, Alabama she joined the Womens Political Council in 1946. ... Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. ...

The WPC formed in 1946 as a civic organization for African American professional women in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Most of its members were educators at Alabama State College or Montgomery's public schools. There were about forty members in attendance at the first organizational meeting. Mary Fair Burks, who was head of Alabama State's English department, was the group's first president. Coordinates: Country United States State Alabama County Montgomery Incorporated December 3, 1819 Mayor Bobby Bright Area    - City 404. ... Alabama State Universitys mascot is known as the Hornet Alabama State University, founded 1867, is a historically black university located in Montgomery, Alabama. ...

The WPC's first undertaking was to register to vote, which was difficult because of a literacy test designed to make sure blacks wouldn't be able to vote. All the WPC members eventually passed the test and then they opened up schools to help other blacks fill out registration forms and pass literacy test.

In 1950, Burks decided to step down from the presidency. She remained active in the WPC, but simply did not want to be president any longer. Robinson succeeded Burks as president. It was during Robinson's presidency that the WPC began to focus its efforts on bus abuses. During this time, the WPC began planting the seeds which would eventually lead to a mass movement against segregation on Montgomery's public buses. First, members appeared before the City Commission to report abuses on the buses, to which the commission acted surprised but did nothing.

In 1953, Jo Ann Robinson and other local black leaders met with the three commissioners of Montgomery. They complained that the city refused to hire black bus drivers, denounced segregation on the buses, and complained that bus stops in black neighborhoods were farther apart than in white ones. The commissioners refused to change anything, and so Robinson and the other members of the WPC met with bus company officials on their own. The segregation issue was deflected, as bus company officials said that segregation is city and state law. The WPC did achieve a small victory from that meeting, as the bus company officials agreed to have the buses stop at every corner in black neighborhoods, as they already did in white neighborhoods.

In May 1954, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education decision was announced, Robinson wrote a letter to Mayor W. A. Gayle saying that there was growing support amongst local organizations for a bus boycott. By 1955, there was growing dissatisfaction with the segregated bus system. The WPC decided that when the right person got arrested, they would initiate a boycott. When Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year-old high school student was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, the WPC and other local organizations began to discuss ideas for a boycott. It was soon discovered Colvin was pregnant, and so these plans were abandoned for fear that religious and conservative blacks would not support Colvin. Though others after Colvin had gotten arrested for refusing to leave their seat, it wasn't until Rosa Parks' arrest in December of that year that the WPC and other local organizations decided it was the right time to garner support for a citywide bus boycott. Holding Racial segregation of students in public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because separate facilities are inherently unequal. ... Claudette Colvin (born 1940) is a black woman from Alabama. ... Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African American seamstress and civil rights activist whom the U.S. Congress dubbed the Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement. Parks is famous for her refusal on December 1, 1955 to obey bus driver James Blake...

The night of Parks’ arrest, Robinson called the other WPC leaders, and they agreed that this was the right time for a bus boycott. Robinson stayed up all night mimeographing 35,000 handbills at Alabama State College. She called students and arranged to meet them at elementary and high schools in the morning. She then drove to the various schools to drop the handbills off to the students who would distribute them in the schools and ask other students to bring them home to their parents. The handbill asked blacks to boycott the buses the following Monday in support of Parks.

By Friday night, thanks to Robinson's handbills, word of a boycott had spread all over the city. That same night, local ministers and civil rights leaders held a meeting in which Reverend L. Roy Bennett announced that the boycott would be on for Monday and that other ministers should urge their congregations to take part. Some ministers were hesitant to engage in a boycott, and about half left the meeting in frustration. Those who stayed, however, agreed to the boycott and helped spread the word. They also decided to hold a mass meeting Monday night to decide if the boycott should continue. After the success of the Monday boycott, those at the Monday night meeting decided to continue the boycott. They established the Montgomery Improvement Association to focus on the boycott and elected the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as president. Jo Ann Robinson became a member, served on the group’s executive board, and edited their newsletter. In order to protect her position at Alabama State College and to protect her colleagues, Robinson purposely stayed out of the limelight even though she worked diligently with the MIA. Robinson and other WPC members also helped sustain the boycott by providing transportation for boycotters. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, the lead section of this article may need to be expanded. ...


  • Burks, Mary Fair. "Women in the Montgomery Bus Boycott." Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers 1941-1965. Ed. Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. 71-83.

External links

  • "Women's Political Council." King Encyclopedia.



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