A letter written from Jo Ann Robinson to Mayor W.A. Gayle of Montgomery, Alabama, dated May 21, 1954

The Women’s Political Council (WPC) of Montgomery, Alabama, was established in 1949 to increase the political leverage of the Black community by promoting civic involvement, increasing voter registration and lobbying city officials to address racist policies. This leading civil rights group, spearheaded by Black women, helped to initiate and sustain the famous year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that began in December 1955. In fact, the WPC had been planning for a citywide boycott of buses long before the historic boycott of 1955. In 1953, after collecting hundreds of complaints from Black men and women, the WPC approached Montgomery city commissioners about unfair practices. One year later, on behalf of the WPC, Robinson wrote to Mayor Gayle asking for fair treatment on the city buses.
Women’s Political Council (WPC) President Jo Ann Robinson
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching the Movement Text Library and aligns with Summary Objective 4.B. 

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Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    In May of 1954, Jo Ann Robinson and the WPC, on behalf of the Black community, outlined a list of demands to Mayor Gayle and city commissioners. What do the three demands have in common?
    Answers will vary, but include these: Equal treatment of Black and white people on public transportation, an improved standard of travel for Black people on buses, and more convenient bus stops.
  2. Question
    Why do you think Jo Ann Robinson reminds Mayor Gayle that three-fourths of the bus riders in Montgomery, Alabama, are African Americans? What is her intention?
    Answers will vary, but include these: She wants to bring attention to the fact that a majority of bus riders are being mistreated, if the mayor addresses the demands then it will satisfy and benefit the majority of bus riders, and by drawing attention to the financial contributions of Black people to the city’s public transportation system, Robinson makes a case for social equality.
  3. Question
    After mentioning that some community organizers are considering a citywide boycott of buses, Jo Ann Robinson highlights other Southern cities where integrated public transportation is successful. Why do you think she structures the letter this way?
    Answers will vary, but include these: By highlighting community talk of a boycott, Jo Ann Robinson is alluding to what may happen if the mayor does not seriously consider the demands. She underscores successful integrated city buses in other locales in an attempt to convince the mayor to order equal treatment of Black riders.
Reveal Answers
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