Out of Pearidge

Authorization is granted for the use of short quotes for educational purposes as long as proper citations are used. A version of this story first appeared in The Huntsville Times, October 26, 1996, C2.

We Stood Up

In 1956, Rosa Parks made history by forcing the desegregation of the public bus system in Montgomery. Everyone is familiar with the Montgomery story. Few know of the subsequent events in the integration of the Huntsville lines. This is that story.

In the late '50, there were no school buses for white student attending Huntsville City Schools. We rode the city bus.

From the original Butler High, the bus wound through west Huntsville and turned left onto Jordan Lane. With Redstone on one side of the lane and forest and fields on the other, we had a continuous ride to the intersection with Drake.

At Drake, most of the passengers exited and walked the sundry blocks to our homes east of the stop, because the bus turned west. The bus went onto the Arsenal and picked up the domestic workers who cleaned the dependents' homes. We were home easily before the loaded bus came back east on Drake.

Then, one day the driver made an unscheduled stop on Jordan Land and said, "Listen up, we need your help. These people are getting out of hand and we need to show them that this ain't Montgomery. So, from now on, we want y'all to stay on the bus at the next stop and ride onto the Arsenal with me."

Some students did not understand what he was asking; so others explained in whispers, "If we ride up, they'll have to go to the back or stand." Then the bus fell silent for the ride to the crucial stop. I believe we were all doing a little soul-searching during that time.

We knew that if we stayed on the bus, the women who had labored all day would have to stand. The injustice of that option was clear.

However, if we left the bus, we would be defying a request from an authority figure, a white authority figure.

I like to believe that I made the decision quickly. I like to remember that I was the first to rise from my seat when the bus stopped. I cannot say that the recall is accurate. Several students got up immediately and the others followed quickly. A few of us waited along Drake until the bus returned. We wanted to know for sure that the women had seats. They did.

Rosa Parks earned the recognition for her courageous acts in Montgomery. The many others who followed her example were also brave and should be proud of what they contributed. The action of the Butler High School students that spring afternoon pales in comparison.

Still, I am pleased that we did what we did. We showed them that Huntsville was not another Montgomery; Huntsville was superior.