James Blake: The Bus Driver

In the 1950s bus drivers in Montgomery, Alabama, had a lot of power. They called it "police power." They enforced segregation laws on their buses. They also forced black people to follow special rules any time they climbed aboard.

One Montgomery bus driver made a strong impression on Rosa Parks. It was not a good impression! The driver was James Blake. Rosa described him as being tall, thick, and intimidating with rough-looking skin. He treated every black person badly. One day in the winter of 1943, Rosa boarded his very crowded bus. The back half was full with black passengers. They were everywhere! Many people were even standing on the back stairs. Mr. Blake looked at Rosa. He told her to get off the bus and board it again from the back. Rosa objected. She was already on the bus and didn't see the need to get off and on again. She didn't even think it was possible to board in the back. The passengers back there were squished like sardines in a tin can! The driver told her that if she couldn't squeeze in through the back door then there wasn't room for her on the bus. Then he grabbed Rosa's coat sleeve. Slowly, Rosa moved towards the front of the bus and dropped her purse. She could have bent over and grabbed it. Instead, she decided to make an impression of her own. Rosa sat down in the front seat-a white seat. Then, while seated, she bent over and picked up her purse. This made Mr. Blake very angry! He stood over the top of her and yelled, "Get off my bus." Rosa decided that she would never again board a bus without looking to see who was driving it. She didn't want .....

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