1324 GA Highway 49 South | Americus Georgia 31719

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Peacemakers Series -Jo Ann Robinson

Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.

Jo Ann Robinson black and white mug shot

Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (1912-1992) was an important instigator behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. Born in Culloden, Georgia, Robinson was the youngest of 12 children. She was the first person in her family to graduate from college in 1934. She became an English teacher in the Macon public school system. She and Wilbur Robinson married and had a son who died in infancy. After this tragedy, Robinson moved on to earn her Master’s degree and her doctorate in English. In 1949, she began working as an English professor at Alabama State College.

“Apparently indefatigable, she, perhaps more than any other person, was active on every level of protest.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In her first semester as a professor, Robinson experienced first hand the extent of the segregation in the Montgomery public transportation system. She sat down in the white section of the bus and was publicly humiliated by the bus driver. This experience drove her to fight for equality in Montgomery. She was involved the Montgomery Improvement Agency (MIA) and the Women’s Political Council (WPC), a group started in 1946 by fellow Alabama State professor Mary Fair Burks. In 1950, Robinson became president of the WPC. This group attempted to discuss the problems of segregation with the mayor of Montgomery, but their meetings did not accomplish anything. She began to plan a boycott and waited for an opportune moment to begin. In 1955, Rose Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus provided the perfect time to begin the boycott.

Women’s leadership was no less important to the development of the Montgomery Bus Boycott than was the male and minister-dominated leadership.

After a year of boycotting the public transportation system, the Supreme Court declared segregation on buses to be unconstitutional. Robinson continued to fight for civil rights in Montgomery. She attempted to be subtle with her involvement, but acts of violence followed her nonetheless. In 1960, sit-ins at Alabama State caused her to resign her job to avoid further confrontation. She moved to Grambling College in Louisiana and taught there for a year. She then moved to Los Angeles and taught public school until her retirement. She died in 1992. Robinson also wrote a memoir entitled The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It. Although her name is not as widely known, her fight for desegregation was vital and an inspiration to all those who worked to gain civil rights.

Be quiet but friendly; proud, but not arrogant; joyous not boisterous.
Be loving enough to absorb evil and understanding enough to turn an enemy into a friend.
-The flyer produced by the MIA after the success of the bus boycott.

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