What Was the Movie "Boycott" All About?

by Michael Davidson

Rosa Parks made history in 1955 when she sat in the "whites only" section of a bus in Alabama and refused to give up her seat to a white person. The incident sparked a national outcry regarding civil rights that is considered pivotal in the African-American movement for equality in the United States. "Boycott" is a 2001 television film from HBO that highlighted this struggle.

The Real History

Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Reverends Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy met with the head of the Women's Political Council, Jo Ann Robinson, and with the head of the NAACP, E.D. Nixon. The group decided to organize a boycott of the public bus system in Montgomery. The boycott was so successful that the police department harassed carpools and other alternate forms of transportation because of the lost revenue. The Parks case went to the Supreme Court in 1956; the court found segregation on public transit in Alabama to be unconstitutional. The boycott ended.

Cast of "Boycott"

Iris Little-Thomas played Rosa Parks. Jeffrey Wright played Martin Luther King, Jr. and Terrence Howard played Ralph Abernathy, who was a civil rights leader and a close friend of King. CCH Pounder and Sean Michael Howard played Jo Ann Robinson and Fred Gray, respectively. Reg E. Cathey played E.D. Nixon, the head of the NAACP, and Coretta King was portrayed by Carmen Ejogo.


With the assistance of Reverends King and Abernathy, the Montgomery Improvement Association organizes a boycott of the Montgomery public bus system in protest of Rosa Parks's arrest. King and Abernathy spread the word in the local African-American community to stop riding the buses. The community starts organizing alternate forms of transportation, including carpools and walking. The boycott gets national attention as bombs are placed in the homes of King and Nixon. Conspiracy charges are brought against King as well. The boycott lasts 381 days and ends when the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, holds that the Montgomery segregation was illegal, invalidating Rosa Parks's arrest.

Film Style and Extras

The film was shot in a grainy style to give it a pseudo-documentary feel. It also incorporates legitimate newsreel footage to enhance the feeling of authenticity. The DVD features a director's commentary by Clark Johnson as well as a making-of featurette with interviews with many of the film's stars. There is also a text-based history lesson that provides context for the film and the events happening during that time period related to the civil rights movement.