Montgomery Unveils Rosa Parks Statue

In Alabama’s capital city, a new statue of the civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was dedicated in celebration of the 64th anniversary of her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man. When the bus driver told Parks he was going to have her arrested, she calmly replied, “You may do that.” She was then arrested and fined $10. The events that unfolded as a result of this action changed the United States forever.

Approximately 400 spectators gathered to watch this monumental moment take place. Government officials Steve Reed, the Mayor of Montgomery, and Kay Ivey, the Alabama Governor, were the ones to pull back the cloth to unveil the statue. The Sunday the celebration took place coincided with Parks’ Dec. 1, 1955 arrest. This was the pivotal moment in history that ignited the idea for the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The statue, a life-size bronze figure, stands just a couple of feet away from where she boarded the bus on that historical day. She appears defiant, standing proud while holding her purse in front of her.

Courtesy: Twitter

This is the second year that Montgomery celebrated Rosa Parks Day. Reed, Montgomery’s first African American mayor, addressed her importance to the city and the country as he spoke to the crowd. “We honor a seamstress and a servant; one whose courage ran counter to her physical stature. She was a consummate contributor to equality and did so with a quiet humility that is an example for all of us.”

Also honored during the ceremony were the plaintiffs from the Browder v. Gayle court case, which ruled segregation on buses as unconstitutional. Four granite markers were dedicated in their names. Mary Louise Smith, one of the plaintiffs, was a part of the ceremony.

Courtesy: The New York Times

Fred Gray, the lawyer who defended Parks alongside Charles D. Langford, was also in attendance at the ceremony and sat in the second row. He told the Montgomery Advertiser “For the city officials, from the city and the county, to be able to honor Mrs. Parks and honor those plaintiffs, and even more importantly to honor the 40,000 African-American men and women who stayed off of the buses for 382 days, it is indeed a step in the right direction.”

On the day of the ceremony, Governor Kay Ivy tweeted out the following: “I hope… [the statue’s] presence will remind us of the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement [and] ensure that future generations will be better & do better.”

In 1999, Rosa Parks was recognized for her “courage and pivotal role in the history of the civil rights movement” by being awarded Congresses’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. Parks died in 2005 at the age of 92.

“Today we honor Mrs. Rosa Parks’ act of courage and defiance some 64 years ago," said Mayor Reed. "Her moment born out of faith was a pilot light for a movement that would overcome fear." And it was her courage and good faith that lead Parks to begin a quiet revolution - all from staying seated. 

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