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The B List: Six reasons to remember the bus on this day

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 28, 2013 - To borrow a line from poet William Carlos Williams, so much of a social movement depends upon a bus…

Consider these examples:

1. Seamstress Rosa Parks was put off one on Dec. 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger.

2. After that, blacks in Montgomery boycotted them in 1955 until Dec. 20, 1956 when the city agreed to end its segregation laws.

3. Integrated groups boarded them during the Freedom Rides in 1961 across the South to test a Supreme Court ruling that interstate bus terminals must also be desegregated. That was 13 years after the court had outlawed segregated seating on interstate buses.

4. Tens of thousands of Americans boarded them for the March on Washington, then the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, and 50 years later.

5. Groups in various cities, including St. Louis, denounced them during the 1980s after school boards began engaging in "forced busing" for school desegregation.

6. Just this fall, they were called into service for a controversial plan to transport some of the students transferring from unaccredited schools in the Riverview Gardens and Normandy districts to schools in the Mehlville, Kirkwood and Francis Howell districts.

On this day when many are celebrating the March on Washington, it’s probably worth remembering the role of this vehicle in speeding up social change in America.

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues. He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.