Magazine article Editor & Publisher

50 Years on, Voices of Bus Boycott Heard

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

50 Years on, Voices of Bus Boycott Heard

Article excerpt

Staffers at the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser are quick to emphasize how important coordination and teamwork were to the 1955 boycotts that put Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement on the map. Perhaps that's because they've learned the same lesson while organizing the paper's slew of special projects commemorating the boycott's half-century anniversary this month.

The 48,097-circulation Advertiser (57,223 Sundays) launched a Web site this fall designed as a public resource about the boycotts. The site, at, includes about 500 articles from that time, video interviews with some involved, photo galleries, a timeline, and a historical overview.

For Dec. 1 -- 50 years to the day since Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white rider -- the paper's plans included a 56-page insert complementing and fleshing out much of the online material. The paper also is offering a book, They Walked to Freedom, recounting the boycotts from the perspective of the Montgomery Advertiser, and a teacher's guide.

In Rosa Parks' hometown, where her death on Oct. 24 was front-page news for nearly a week, reminders are everywhere of the 381-day boycotts that finally won blacks the right to ride unsegregated buses. "They still talk about it today as if it happened yesterday, the excitement in their voices, the pride in their eyes," lead reporter Jannelle McGrew says.

No wonder Wanda Lloyd and members of the task force she headed to coordinate the paper's anniversary project decided from the outset they had to think of their audience as participants, not just consumers. This is evident even in the name of the insert, "Voices of the Boycott," which is anchored by interviews with people who made the effort possible, both on a large and small scale.

When the task force was created about a year ago, the staffers first educated themselves about the boycott. After compiling a list of "must-have" interviews, the paper advertised for people with stories to tell. Faced with few whites coming forward, Lloyd entreated readers of her column for anecdotes from both sides of the color line.

Although Lloyd says she would been happy for the "balance" more whites' stories would have provided, she understands that the same reasons people hid their involvement 50 years ago still hold sway today. …

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