MARCH 22, 1956

Martin Luther King Jr. was found guilty of violating a 1921 boycott statute in Montgomery, Alabama. 

During the four-day trial, King’s lawyers, led by attorney Fred Gray, outlined the abuse and violence toward Black riders. Among the 31 witnesses testifying were Stella Brooks, who stopped riding buses after Montgomery police killed her husband after he demanded a fare refund. 

The judge found King guilty and fined him $500, plus $500 in court costs. When he decided to appeal, the judge converted the fine to 386 days behind bars. When he walked out of the courthouse, 300 supporters greeted and cheered him. That evening at Holt Street Baptist Church, King announced that the boycott would continue. 

“We will continue to protest in the same spirit of nonviolence and passive resistance,” he said, “using the weapon of love.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.