(NewsNation) — Many people know about the protests that happened after Rosa Parks, in 1955, was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.
But what many might not know is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced a criminal trial for organizing the ensuing bus boycott in Alabama.
NewsNation’s Dan Abrams, along with David Fisher and Fred Gray, who was Parks’ and King’s lawyer, has written a book examining the trial. Called “Alabama v. King,” it is available starting May 24.
An excerpt of the book can be read here.
Being able to work with Gray on the book was an honor, Abrams said. It also allowed the host of “Dan Abrams Live” and his co-author the opportunity to get firsthand insight into his experience.
“I think Fred Gray is one of the most underappreciated civil rights heroes in America,” Abrams said. “He was Rosa Parks’ lawyer, he was the lawyer who argued in front of the Supreme Court to end segregation on buses, among many other very high-profile cases.”
When it comes to what sparked protests and bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, all those years ago, people forget that they weren’t just about segregation, Abrams said during “Morning in America.”
“It was the daily indignities,” Abrams said. “It was having to go pay your fare, literally walk off of the bus, go walk into the back again. Sometimes the drivers would leave, sometimes the drivers would hit the passengers, etc. That’s in addition to being called horrible names.”
Under an “arcane, old statue” that existed, King was prosecuted criminally for his role in protests sparked by this mistreatment, Abrams said.
“What’s so interesting about this case, and why this case is so important, is this was the first time that Martin Luther King was ever mentioned, seen, heard of on the national stage,” Abrams said. “He was the leader of this movement. But it wasn’t as if he was a huge activist who was so well known.”
That all changed as the case evolved.
“The prosecution completely backfired, and made Dr. Martin Luther King a national and international figure, as the media and others covered what was happening in this case, day after day, listening to the accounts of ordinary Montgomery folks talking about what they endured,” Abrams said. “And by the time this trial ended, the civil rights movement, in its earlier stages, had a leader in Dr. King. And that’s why this case is so important.”