Black Montgomerians hated segregation for many reasons. One was the conviction, reaffirmed almost daily, that it could never be equitable or fair. In December and January they experienced publicly, as a unified community, what many had known privately all along: that legalized segregation could never be anything but white supremacy, naked or veiled. It could not be palliated by cosmetic reforms.
The authorities "did not do what we wanted done," Fred Gray later reflected. "When that became apparent, then the question is, 'how long are we gonna stay off the buses?' People have to look forward to something. And the logical thing is to stay off the buses until we can return to them on an integrated basis. Because they wouldn't give us the smaller things, we go for the larger and the only way we could go for that, and I knew that, was a federal suit."1
The dynamics of the mass protest taught participants that they had no recourse but to challenge the constitutionality of bus segregation. Officials had delegitimized their own segregation laws when they refused to implement them fairly, yet hid behind and manipulated them to preserve the unsustainable status quo. The movement spawned an efficient car pool system that might have developed into an independent system of public transport. But the city commission's denial of the MIA proposal for a jitney service closed off the last possibility of a "separate but equal" solution and made bus desegregation inescapable.
When the protesters shifted course suddenly to change the law, the city moved to shut down the bus boycott by prosecuting eighty-nine of its leaders.