Mother Pollard Biography

Activist, Civil Rights Activist
Mother Pollard was a community elder and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. who gave wise, resounding words of advice during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Synopsis

Mother Pollard was part of the African-American community in Montgomery, Alabama, during the start of the historic 1950s bus boycotts. Despite her advanced years, she refused to take the bus and was adamant that she would walk to see change happen, making the statement, "My feets is tired, but my soul is rested." Pollard was also a valued source of love and inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr.

Background

Little has been circulated in general media about the early history and origins of the woman known as Mother Pollard, who became an iconic part of the Civil Rights Movement and Montgomery Bus Boycott of the mid-1950s in Alabama.

It is known that Mother Pollard was a loved community elder at the time of the boycott's beginnings. The protest was started after Rosa Parks chose not to give up her seat to white passengers on a bus at the demands of the driver, for which she was arrested. After coordination with E.D. Nixon of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the boycott was initiated on the day of Parks's trial—December 5, 1955—and lasted until December 20 of the following year.

Offers Iconic Words

The boycott was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a young pastor new to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church who worked in conjunction with fellow minister Ralph D. Abernathy to form the Montgomery Improvement Association. The citywide action's work involved a huge amount of volunteer coordination, widely by women, which involved matters like African-American citizens with cars providing transportation to those who usually relied on buses.

Mother Pollard was later described by King as "one of the most dedicated participants in the bus protest." She refused to take up offers that she received for rides, and would not forgo participation in the protest due to her age and health; she declared that she would continue walking. When asked whether she was weary, Pollard stated, "My feets is tired, but my soul is rested." Her reply became one of the era's defining messages, a visionary statement for change. (Another version of Mother Pollard's famous statement appears in The Montgomery Bus Boycott: A History and Reference Guide, published in 2009 by Cheryl Phibbs: "It used to be my soul was weary and my feet were rested; now my feet is tired, but my soul is rested.")

Gives Love to King

Mother Pollard was also an indispensable source of energy and spiritual renewal for King. As he recounted in his sermon/essay "Strength to Love," after a traumatic week of being arrested and receiving inflammatory calls, King was emotionally low.

After he spoke at a mass meeting, Mother Pollard approached him in front of everyone, saying to the minister that she could perceive that something was wrong. Though King tried to put up a brave front, Pollard stated, "I don' told you we is with you all the way. But even if we ain't with you, God's gonna take care of you." Her advice stayed with a deeply moved King, and he returned to her words routinely during subsequent years of tumult.

King's recounting of his experience with Mother Pollard (who had passed away by the date of the book's publication) can be found in 1963's Strength to Love.

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