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The sacrifice of Rosa Parks remembered at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

July 2021

Rosa Parks is an icon in the American civil rights movement, best remembered for her brave stand against Alabama’s segregation laws in the 1950s.

On 1 December 1955, Parks was arrested after refusing an order by Montgomery, Alabama, bus driver James F. Blake, to vacate her seat in the “coloured” section of the bus, to allow a white passenger to have a seat, after the “white” section had filled up.

This act of defiance sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, a protest campaign where black residents of Montgomery refused to ride the city buses. Lasting from 5 December 1955 until 20 December 1956, the boycott proved extremely effective, with the resulting drop in ridership causing transit revenues to plummet.

The boycott ended when federal court ruling, Browder v Gayle, took effect, leading to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

Rosa Parks’ act of defiance earned her international acclaim and as an icon in the resistance to racial segregation in America, but it came at a great cost to Parks personally.

Parks was fired from her job, and received death threats for years afterwards. She moved to Detroit shortly after the boycott, living there until her death in 2005, at the age of 92.

In recognition of her importance to the fight against racial segregation, she was the first woman to lie in honour in the Capital Rotunda in Washington, DC.

Rosa Parks was interred in the chapel mausoleum at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, which was re-named the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel in her honour.

The Montgomery City Bus where it all began was saved after being taken out of service, and is now part of the collection at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

Sources: Montgomery bus boycott – Wikipedia, Rosa Parks – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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