March 28th, 1956

Churches Observe National Deliverance Day of Prayer in Support of Montgomery Bus Boycott

After Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, the local black community launched a boycott of the city bus system. Organizers and participants of the bus boycott faced harassment, threats, and arrest but continued their efforts and gained national attention.

As a means of publicizing and encouraging support of the ongoing boycott and other anti-discrimination efforts, Adam Clayton Powell organized a National Deliverance Day of Prayer on March 28, 1956. Rev. Powell, a black minister and congressman from New York, urged participants throughout the country to "pray for the deliverance of all who suffer from persecution and we for the salvation of all who are afflicted with racial prejudice." Rev. Powell initially proposed the day should include a one-hour work stoppage, but other religious leaders rejected the idea as unnecessarily disruptive.

On the Day of Prayer, Rev. Powell led 5000 people in a rally and prayer meeting in Manhattan. Many other New York churches also held large services and 28,000 people attended similar events in Chicago. Churches and synagogues in Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and Galveston held services and collected funds to support the Montgomery boycott. In Chino, California, nine black men who followed Rev. Powell's original call and stopped work for one hour to pray in support of the boycott were fired from an aircraft repair plant for "insubordination."