This unheralded woman actually organized the Montgomery bus boycott

Earlier this week, the nation celebrated the birthday of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. — a custom that originally began in 1986. There is no denying that King deserves a holiday — not least because he paid the ultimate price in the struggle to secure equal rights for black people in the United States.

Yet, so many activists who worked closely with him — and even those who might not have crossed his path — are worthy of this national honor but will most likely never receive it. Jo Ann Robinson is one of these individuals — a name unfamiliar to many Americans. Interestingly, however, Robinson’s political activities helped to propel King’s career, making it possible for him to become the prominent figure we memorialize each year.

Born in Georgia in 1912, Robinson became a professor at Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama. Active in her local community, Robinson was a member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and later became president of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), an organization of several hundred black women in Montgomery. Established in 1946, the WPC’s central goal was to tackle the challenges African Americans faced because of inhumane treatment on city buses. Robinson, whom white bus drivers had verbally abused, became president of the WPC and led efforts to improve conditions on public transportation. In 1953, the WPC collected hundreds of complaints from black men and women across the city who had endured similar mistreatment on segregated city buses. [Read the entire article]