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CITY OF ROCK HILL ECONOMIC & URBAN DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT

803.329.7090

 ADDELENE 

 AUSTIN 

 WHITE  

CATALYST FOR 1957 BUS BOYCOTT

On July 13, 1957, when Addelene Austin was just 23 years old, she stepped onto the bus for her daily ride home from work. There was only one seat left on the bus that hot summer day, but it was in the whites-only section. Although a white woman offered to share the seat with Addelene, the bus driver refused to let her sit down. Tired and humiliated, she chose to get off the bus and walk three miles home rather than remain standing.

Word of Addelene's experience quickly spread around Rock Hill. Although she had no intention of starting a protest when she boarded the bus that day, a boycott of the Star Transit Company was in full effect by the end of July. It is estimated that around 600 African Americans rode the bus daily in 1957, and with the help of Reverend Cecil Ivory, the Rock Hill NAACP, and the Committee for the Promotion of Human Rights (CPHR), the African American community came together to provide alternative transportation to the riders. Volunteers provided carpool services, and the CPHR received enough contributions that it was able to purchase two buses within a few months. 

The quiet, but powerful actions of this one young woman provided just the catalyst needed to ignite Rock Hill’s civil rights movement.