This Day in History: Rosa Parks Ignites Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks statue unveiled in Alabama on anniversary of her historic bus protest

Sunday marked the 64th anniversary of Parks refusal to give up her seat

A new statue of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was dedicated in Alabama’s capital city on Sunday, the 64th anniversary of her historic refusal to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey pulled back a cloth to unveil the statue before a crowd of about 400 spectators.

Mary Louise Smith, a plaintiff in the Browder vs. Gayle case that desegregated buses in Montgomery, stands beside the Rosa Parks statue after its unveiling event in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.
Photo: Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP

The ceremony coincided with the anniversary of Parks’ Dec. 1, 1955 arrest that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal part of the civil rights movement.

“This depiction will inspire future generations to make the pilgrimage to our city, to push toward the path of righteousness, strength, courage and equality,” Reed, who recently became the first African American mayor of Montgomery, said at the ceremony, according to al.com.

»MORE: Claudette Colvin: Teen’s bus seat protest preceded Rosa Parks’ action

Four granite markers near the statue honor plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that determined segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. One of the plaintiffs, Mary Louise Smith, took part in the ceremony Sunday.

About 500 spectators attended the unveiling of the statue Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.
Photo: Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP

Parks was 92 when she died in 2005.

Fred Gray, the attorney who defended Parks, the Browder v. Gayle plaintiffs and many other civil rights activists, sat in the second row at the unveiling.

"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," Gray told the Montgomery Advertiser.

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