Directions: Read the text and answer the questions that
On the Front Lines of Justice
When I grew up, the South was segregated. Very much
so. Your parents had taught you that you had a place. You
knew that much. In the city you had the signs. You have to
stay here, you have to drink out of this fountain, you can’t
eat at this counter. I thought segregation was horrible.
On the regular buses there were signs on the side saying
“Colored” with an arrow this way and “White” with an
arrow this way. The motorman could adjust the signs. He
could direct people to sit where he wanted them to.
March 2, 1955, I got on the bus in front of the Dexter
Avenue Church. I went to the middle. No white people
were on the bus at that time. Then the bus began to fill
up. White people got on and began to stare at me. The
bus motorman asked me to get up. A white lady was
sitting across the aisle from me, and it was against the
law for you to sit in the same aisle with a white person.
The bus driver looked back through the rearview
mirror and again told me to get up. I didn’t. I knew he
was talking to me. He said, “Hey, get up!” I didn’t say
anything. When I didn’t get up, he didn’t move the bus.
He said before he’d drive on, I’d have to get up. People
were saying, “Why don’t you get up? Why don’t you get
up?” One girl said, “She knows she has to get up.” Then
another girl said, “She doesn’t have to. Only one thing you
have to do is stay black and die.”
The white people were complaining. The driver stopped
the bus and said, “This can’t go on.” Then he got up and
said, “I’m going to call the cops.”
I remained there, and [a] traffic patrolman said, “Aren’t
I said, “No. I do not have to get up. I paid my fare, so I do
not have to get up. It’s my constitutional right to sit here
just as much as that lady. It’s my constitutional right!”
The words just came into my mind.