Inside the Capitol Park Museum, you can find exhibits ranging from Louisiana’s political and cultural history, to its strong history of movements toward civil rights; including one exhibit highlighting one of the first large-scale bus boycotts, the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953 which started this week 67 years ago.
“They came up with a system that was so effective, that the established system lost $1,600 a day” said Rodneyna Hart, the museum’s executive director. “That was a lot of money… and it was because they were able to come together and work smartly and they were able to achieve the goal of getting better conditions on the busses in Baton Rouge.”
The Baton Rouge bus boycott is believed to have been the model Martin Luther King, Junior, and other civil rights leaders throughout the South, used for the Montgomery bus boycott two years later.
“You had a lot of influential people coming in learning what happened here in Baton Rouge and taking that to other parts of the country to effect change” said Joey David, curator at the museum. “So you can really look at Baton Rouge as being kind of the hub.”
After a two week boycott of the Baton Rouge bus system, the Baton Rouge city council passed an ordinance reforming the systems segregationists policies.
“The ingenuity and the collective of the community coming together and saying that we as a unit are powerful” Hart said. “If we ban together and we remain organized and we’re able to have the few resources that we do have, if we use them in a way that’s more effective, that we can move the needle.”
Recognizing the struggles of a not-so distant past, to help guide us into the future.
“It’s not somebody who lived 100 years ago, these people may be living next door to you, they may be living around the corner, but they’re still here and we can still learn a lot from them” said David. “Especially as we move forward to not repeat some of the same mistakes that may have happened before” he added.