People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in –Rosa Parks
My colleague, Dr. Ramona Hyman, always has “Montgomery” and its rich Civil Rights history “on [her] mind.” Thanks to her, I have Montgomery, Alabama on my mind too as I prepare to spend a couple of days there with her and several Huntsville educators “Revisiting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.” The educators are working on integrating this piece of history into their K-12 classes. I have a different research agenda–as I’m thinking through a project on women’s involvement in critical moments in history.
Today is a perfect time to share some of the Rosa Parks postcards in my collection. I’ve had them for quite some time, but now that I’m thinking about Montgomery, it’s an appropriate time to share.
Many people know about her contribution to American civil rights and history, but just in case you don’t know–Rosa Parks is considered the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955 “triggered a wave of protests that reverberated throughout the United States.” The boycott lasted for more than a year and ultimately catapulted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into national prominence. The boycotts led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation on city buses.
Here are three related postcards from my collection:
The “Rosa Parks Bus” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan
From the postcard back:
Montgomery City Bus 2857. Originally built in 1948 in Pontiac, Michigan, Bus 2857 was operated by the Montgomery City Bus Lines in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954-1971. Rosa Parks was riding this bus on the evening of December 1, 1955 when she was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white man. This incident sparked subsequent civil rights protests, especially the boycott of Montgomery’s bus system. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States. The yearlong boycott kept Montgomery’s [black population] off all buses until December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public transportation was unconstitutional. Bus 2857 was retired and sold in 1971. After sitting for 30 years in a field, the bus was purchased by auction by The Henry Ford [Museum} and has been restored to appear as it did in 1955. The bus is now on display in the Henry Ford Museum.
You can find more details about the purchase and restoration of the bus here: Restoring the Rosa Parks Bus.
Rosa Parks arrested for refusing to yield her seat to a white man.
The postcard, featuring the familiar image of Parks being fingerprinted, comes from the Women Who Dared collection sent to me during Women’s History Month several years ago. The sender added a Parks quote:
Each person must live life as a model for others. –Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
The art above is part of the “Celebrating Women” banners that were on display at The Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Celebrate Cafe in New York City when I visited several years ago (2010, maybe?). If I remember correctly, each banner was created by a young woman who was involved in the Club.
You can find out a lot more about Rosa Parks by reading her biography on the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute website. You’ll find that she was much more than the woman who refused to give up her seat.
“A Hymn for Montgomery 55” by Ramona Hyman
from her collection, In the Sanctuary of the South
Holy, holy, holy: a hymn of praise
For prophets framing freedom
In Montgomery 55: Strange fruits marching–some
Walking, some crawling–some…
Holy, holy, holy–a hymn of praise
Americans: black and white; hand in hand
Saintly sighing a freedom song of praise
Holy, holy, holy–the march raises
Into victory: freedom swells, the flag: separate
And unequal shreds into the face of anxious
Soldiers–black and white jumping the broom
Into a new day–the Civil Rights Movement begins