As news of the boycott spread, African-American leaders across Montgomery, Alabama’s capital city, began lending their support. Black ministers announced the boycott in church on Sunday, December 4, and the Montgomery Advertiser, a general-interest newspaper, published a front-page article on the planned action. Approximately 40,000 African-American bus riders–the majority of the city’s black bus riders–boycotted the system the next day. On the afternoon of December 5, black leaders met to form the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The group elected Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-68), the 26-year-old-pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, as its president, and decided to continue the boycott until the city met its demands.
Initially, the demands did not include changing the segregation laws; rather, the group demanded courtesty, the hiring of black drivers, and a first-come, first-seated policy, with whites entering and filling seats from the front and African Americans from the rear. Ultimately, however, a group of five Montgomery women, represented by attorney Fred D. Gray (1932-) and the NAACP, sued the city in U.S. District Court, seeking to have the busing segregation laws invalidated.
Although African Americans represented at least 75 percent of Montgomery’s bus ridership, the city resisted complying with the MIA’s demands. To ensure the boycott could be sustained, black leaders organized carpools, and the city’s African-American taxi drivers charged only 10 cents–the same price as bus fare–for African-American riders. Many black residents chose simply to walk to work and other destinations. Black leaders organized regular mass meetings to keep African-American residents mobilized around the boycott.