We all know and revere Rosa Parks, whose choice of seats on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in December 1955 launched a boycott that launched the Civil Rights Movement. But six months earlier, an unsung hero, Lucille Times, had her own problems on a bus in that same city, and it was her outrage that inspired the actions that would later change history.
Times died this week from complications of COVID at the age of 100 with none of the fanfare Rose Parks attracted.
Ironically, Times tussled with the same driver, James Blake, who would later throw Rosa Parks off the bus. Can we maybe agree that Blake was destined to be an agent of change, whether he knew it or not. And that’s the nicest thing that can be said about him.
Lucille Times Leads A Trial Run
On June 15, 1955, Lucille Times was driving to the dry cleaners when she got into an altercation with Blake, at the wheel of his bus, who tried to push her car off the road three times. She continued on her errand, but he followed her. When she parked, Blake ran over to her and called her a “black son of a bitch.” When she dared to respond by calling him a “white son a bitch,” a fight ensued and ended when a motorcycle police officer striking her with a flashlight.
The bus driver called her a `Black son of a bitch.’
Afterward, Times and her husband called E.D. Nixon, the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter. “As a child, she had taken part in a boycott of a butcher shop in Detroit, where she was visiting relatives, and she suggested to Mr. Nixon that the city’s Black community could do the same,” the New York Times wrote in Times’ obituary. “He agreed, but said the time wasn’t right—they would need money, cars, and other supplies to make it happen. He asked her to have patience.”
When her complaints to the bus company and the local newspaper did not help, Times took matters into her own hands. She organized her own boycott, driving to bus stops and offering free rides to black passengers waiting to board. Her husband took up collections for gas money in the cafe the couple ran.
When the N.A.A.C.P. organized the boycott after Rosa Parks’s run in with Blake, Times took an active role. “You’ve got to fight,” Times said in 2017. “You don’t get nothing for free. I’ve been a fighter all of my days.”
We think it’s important and celebration-worthy that the two people who led the country into the Civil Rights Movement were women. That’s how so many things get done, right?