Robinson and the WPC responded to Parks’ arrest by calling for a one-day protest of the city’s buses on 5 December 1955.
Robinson prepared a series of leaflets at Alabama State College and organized groups to distribute them throughout the black community.
The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) coordinated the boycott, and its president, Martin Luther King, Jr., became a prominent civil rights leader as international attention focused on Montgomery.
The bus boycott demonstrated the potential for nonviolent mass protest to successfully challenge racial segregation and served as an example for other southern campaigns that followed.
In the summer of 1957, they were forced to move to Detroit, to join her brother and extended family.
For a time she worked as a hostess at the inn at Virginia’s Hampton Institute. She protested housing segregation, participated in Detroit’s Great March for Freedom and attended the March on Washington in August 1963.
Letters home during her travels describe how heady and tiring this work was—meeting Thurgood Marshall, visiting the Statue of Liberty, doing radio interviews and giving numerous speeches.
Her efforts, alongside others in Montgomery, helped turn a local struggle into a national movement.
For one month, Parks served as a dispatcher, working to sustain the protest and exhorting riders and drivers to keep going.
In her detailed instructions to carpool riders and drivers, she wrote, “Remember how long some of us had to wait when the buses passed us without stopping in the morning and evening.” Fired from her job at Montgomery Fair department store a month into the boycott, Parks spent most of 1956 traveling throughout the country, raising awareness and funds for the movement.