It all comes down to this


Here are some of the rules:

1. In all things observe ordinary rules of courtesy and good behavior.

2. Be quiet but friendly; proud, but not arrogant; joyous, but not boisterous.

3. Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend.

4. If cursed, do not curse back. If pushed, do not push back. If struck, do not strike back, but evidence love and goodwill at all times.

These suggestions were included in a document to the African American community in December 1956 as they were about to board integrated buses in Montgomery, Al, for the first time. The “Integrated Bus Suggestions” were distributed by the Montgomery Improvement Association and signed by the association’s president, The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I saw these in a  post last week by Rebecca Onion, writing for The Vault, Slate magazine’s history blog. The historic document (reproduced below) is revealing and timely. The Integrated Bus Suggestions are as powerful and important today as they were in 1956.

The document implores “a calm and loving dignity befitting good citizens ….” And it instructs: “According to your own ability and personality, do not be afraid to experiment with new and creative techniques for achieving reconciliation and social change.”

The event prompting the suggestions is 58 years behind us. The buses are integrated now. Civil rights extended. But there is still much work to do.

As we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., here at JMU and across the country, we should reflect on the nuts and bolts of how it was done by ordinary people. Dr. King’s call was not lofty or highbrowed. Instead, it was simple, doable, pragmatic — and it was undergirded by a truth that is universal and eternal: It all comes down to you and me and how we get along.

And none of us is exempt from “dignity befitting good citizens”— if we really want positive change.

Learn about JMU’s weeklong celebration of the life of Dr. King here:

And you’ll find more information here:

Inez Jessie Baskin Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

Inez Jessie Baskin Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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