A happy belated Rosa Parks Day — Dec. 1. On the recent 64th anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks on Dec. 1, 1955, the governor of Alabama and the mayor of Montgomery paused to remember Mrs. Rosa Parks with the Rosa Parks life-size statue unveiling, packing Court Square in downtown Montgomery. History had been made 64 years earlier with Rosa Parks’ arrest after refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger.
During the unveiling ceremony, Montgomery’s first black mayor, Steven Reed, declared, “Today we honor Mrs. Parks’ act of courage and defiance some 64 years ago.” Having made up her mind to never move again, Rosa Parks was determined to help end the humiliation blacks endured across the South as segregation became the “southern solution” to the problem of the races. By refusing to give up her seat, the country witnessed a true American patriot demonstrate her devotion to the betterment of our nation. This simple act of dignity and courage became a defining moment in American history, paving the way for America to stand up to its ideals of liberty and justice for all, helping to move us closer to fulfilling the vision of equality for all.
It appeared that the arrest of Rosa Parks was part of a divine plan since the customary one phone call she was given was made to her pastor, E.B. Nixon, who was the president of the Montgomery NAACP. Historically, no other civil rights group has played a larger role than the NAACP in fighting to end segregation. With the assistance of the NAACP, the black community in Montgomery mobilized and formed the Montgomery Improvement Association with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as president, divinely propelling him into national prominence. Just days later, following several mass meetings, blacks were asked not to ride the busses to work, to town, to school or anywhere, thus launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott, campaigning to end segregation.
This decision to start the bus boycott saw much of Montgomery coming out in support of Mrs. Parks, and over a year later, in Dec. 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Alabama’s law requiring segregation on buses was unconstitutional, striking a serious blow to the separate-but-equal doctrine, creating a divinely perfect ending to another chapter in the Freedom Movement.
After having difficulty finding work, Rosa Parks moved to Detroit where she served on Congressman John Conyers’ staff for 23 years. In 1990 she met with Nelson Mandela during a rally in Detroit. And in 1996, President Clinton presented Mrs. Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to an American civilian. Rosa Parks died at the age of 92 on Oct. 24, 2005.
Today, as we look to the future and the work left to do, from creating a more equitable education system to restoring full voting rights for all, let’s keep doing our part.
By Larry Sutton
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.