One morning in the spring of 1955, an African American woman climbed aboard a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, during the hustle and bustle of rush hour. Not long after taking her seat, the bus began to fill up. Eventually, the seats in the white section at the front of the bus were all taken so the driver, Robert Cleere, stopped the crowded bus and ordered three young black women to give up their seats to a few recently boarded white women. When one of the African American women refused to move, Cleere flagged down a pair of police officers.
“Who is it?” one officer barked.
“That's nothing new,” Cleere said pointing dismissively to the woman. “I've had trouble with that thing before.”
“Aren't you going to get up?” the two officers asked her.
“No sir,” she muttered.
“Get up!” they shouted.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she raised her voice at them. “I paid my fare, it's my constitutional right!”
Each officer grabbed one of her arms and hoisted her into the air, sending the books on her lap flying into the aisle. The event was a first for both of the young officers, still in their mid-twenties, and so they weren't exactly sure what to do. After debating for a few moments, they decided to handcuff the woman and dragged her out of the back of the bus and into the back of their squad car.
On the way to the city jail, they harassed and humiliated her. The two men took turns guessing her bra size and making degrading remarks about her body. ...