On this day in 1966, future Mayor Marion Barry led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s one-day bus boycott in protest of a five-cent fare increase. The so-called “mancott” as organized by SNCC and Barry, who was then the organization’s first director, provided alternate transportation for riders on nine Benning Road NE bus lines and urged riders across the city to find different ways of getting from Point A to Point B.
Volunteers drove cars along Benning Road, picking up passengers at bus stops where people refused to use D.C. Transit buses. Barry also organized a bus to travel the route regularly and had people manning a phone line to inform callers of when and where they could find a ride.
SNCC said that by late afternoon, 75,000 riders had stayed off D.C. Transit buses, costing the transit agency $18,000 in lost fares.
Before the boycott, the Metropolitan Area Transit Commission told The Washington Post “no boycott or pressure of any kind, public or private, carries any weight in the rate making processes of this commission.”
They did, however, refuse the rate increase after the boycott, but said they had not been affected by the action.
The Post quoted Barry saying the commission was a “‘power-structure’ agency” who wouldn’t admit the effect of the boycott because “it would be admitting ‘that the people have power.'” Barry also told them about his ideas for other ways to use boycotts, particularly for the Home Rule movement.
Soon after the bus boycott, Barry organized the Free D.C. movement. He entered the D.C. political scene through the school board in 1971 and won the 1978 mayoral election. And well, the rest is history, so to speak.
More on Mayor Barry tomorrow… For the complete Today in D.C. History series, click here.