I presented a fourfold classification of illicit promises in my previous post: (i) promises that are legal and moral, (ii) those that are legal but immoral, (iii) those that are illegal and immoral, and (iv) those that are illegal but moral. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at this last type of illicit promise. Can you think of an example of an illegal agreement whose subject matter is nevertheless justified on moral grounds? How about the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956?
I happen to be writing this blog post in the beautiful city of Montgomery, Alabama, where Rosa Parks changed the course of the United States history, and where I had the honor of visiting the Rosa Parks Museum while I was attending the 65th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business. The Montgomery bus boycott was not only a pivotal moment in U.S. history; it also required the cooperation of many individuals over an extended period of time. In summary, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in violation of a local ordinance, churchmen like the Rev. B. J. Simms and concerned citizens like Jo Ann Robinson called for a grassroots boycott of Montgomery’s public transit system to protest segregation. Since many black people relied on the bus system, these community leaders organized a carpool operation in support of the boycott. The City, however, responded by filing criminal charges against the leaders of the bus boycott, arguing that the unauthorized carpool operation was an illegal conspiracy under a 1921 State law that made conspiring to interfere with a business a crime. Although the boycott was declared illegal by racist State judges, the unlawful boycott was in service of a noble and moral cause.