Saturday, events were held in Montgomery to commemorate Rosa Parks role in desegregating the public transit system in Alabama’s capital city.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said on social media, “It was 63 years ago, today, that a Montgomery woman would change the course of history by refusing to get off a bus. With the full support of the Legislature, we’ve designated Dec. 1 as Mrs. Rosa L. Parks Day in AL. May we forever remember her courage & civil rights legacy.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) said, “Today we pay tribute to the bold and courageous Rosa Parks! By refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in 1955, Ms. Parks helped kick-start an organized bus boycott that began the day she was convicted of violating the segregation laws. The boycott ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional. Her courage inspires me and reminds me that we all have the power to change the world if we’re willing to do what is right!”
On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks, a Black 42-year-old seamstress refused to give up her seat to a White man as the law required. Parks was arrested for civil disobedience. The Montgomery NAACP reacted by declaring a boycott of the Montgomery Bus system. The boycott lasted 381 days, until finally the city was forced to capitulate. The boycott drew national and international attention to the Jim Crow laws in the South at the time and established the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the head of the Civil Rights Movement. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation of public transit was unconstitutional. Parks could not find work following the events of 1955 and had to leave Alabama. Eventually, she worked for Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) for 20 years. She sometimes is credited as being, “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Despite inclement weather there were ceremonies honoring Parks at Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum, the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Alabama State University starts and at St. Paul A.M.E Church in Montgomery, where Parks was a member. That evening a historical marker was unveiled at St. Paul A.M.E. Church.
Economic Developer Nicole Jones attended the events in Montgomery and told the Alabama Political Reporter, “I feel grateful to have spent a portion of 1 December in Montgomery to commemorate the legacy of Rosa Parks, a woman of courage and strength, on the first official Rosa Parks Day. The day commenced with a service and the unveiling of a historic marker in Rosa Parks’ honor in front of her home church, St. Paul A.M.E. on Patton Avenue. In this historic and sacred setting, Carver High School Choir and Alabama State University Choir brought me to tears with one of the most beautiful performances I have ever heard.”
The Alabama legislature passed the resolution unanimously to declare December 1, Rosa Parks Day. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) and carried in the Senate by Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile). Gov. Ivey signed the bill.
Parks was interviewed later about what motivated her to make the decision that she did.
“I thought about Emmett Till (who was lynched in Mississippi on 28 August 1955 at age 14), and I could not go back,” Parks said. “My legs and feet were not hurting, that is a stereotype. I paid the same fare as others, and I felt violated. I was not going back.”
“People always say that I did not give up my seat because I was tired; but that isn’t true,” Parks said. “I was not tired physically or no more than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although a lot of people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”