Timeline

1956

December 28th, 1956

Pregnant Woman Shot While Riding Desegregated Bus in Montgomery, Alabama

From December 1, 1955, until December 20, 1956, black residents of Montgomery, Alabama, boycotted the city bus system to protest their poor treatment on the racially segregated buses. Participants faced threats, violence, and harassment, but were ultimately victorious in December 1956 when the United States Supreme Court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in Browder v. Gayle and ordered desegregation.

The black community returned to the buses but faced the threat of violence from some whites who resented the boycott and its results. In a terrifying development, snipers began to target the buses soon after integrated riding commenced. On the evening of December 28, 1956, shots were fired into a desegregated bus traveling through an African American neighborhood. Rosa Jordan, a 22-year-old black woman who was eight months pregnant, was shot in both legs while sitting in the rear of the bus. She was transported to Oak Street General Hospital, but doctors were hesitant to remove a bullet lodged in her leg, fearing it could cause Jordan to give birth prematurely. She was told she would have to remain in the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy. After the bus driver and passengers were questioned at police headquarters, the bus resumed service. Less than an hour later, in approximately the same neighborhood, the bus was again targeted by snipers but no one was hit.

These shootings followed two earlier sniper attacks on Montgomery buses that occurred the week before but targeted buses carrying no passengers and resulted in no injuries. On the night of Jordan’s shooting, Montgomery Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers ordered all buses to end service for the night. The following day, three city commissioners met with a bus company official and decided to suspend all night bus service after 5:00 p.m. until after the New Year’s holiday. The curfew policy did not end until January 22, 1957.