December 1, 1955, forty-two-year-old Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the National Archives, at that time the buses could be segregated by race, depending on where you lived in the United States. In Alabama, the first ten rows were reserved for white people. Parks was sitting in the first row directly behind the white section. She was clearly in the section designated for people of colour. As the bus filled up the bus driver told the passengers of colour to move further back so that white passengers could take those seats.
Rosa Parks refused. The bus driver called the police. Parks was charged with, “refusing to obey orders of bus driver.” While Parks was not the first person arrested for disobeying segregation laws on Montgomery buses, because of Parks’s character and her involvement in the civil rights community in Mongomery, her arrest became a rallying point for the African American community in Montgomery. Martin Luther King Jr organized a peaceful bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama that lasted 381 days. This was King’s first primate role in the Civil Right’s movement.
Parks was convicted by the city of Montgomery, but her attorney appealed her conviction. In the meantime, the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama heard the case of Browder v. Gayle which ruled that segregation of city buses was unconstitutional due to the 14th Ammendt’s Equal protection clause. The Supreme Court upheld the Browder decision by refusing to hear the case themselves. When the Supreme Court refuses to hear a case that means that the lower court’s ruling stands.
December 1st 2019 Rosa Parks will be honoured with a statue at the Court Street Fountain in Montgomery. Also today the women involved in the Browder case (Aurelia Browder, Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald and Claudette Colvin) will be honoured with two markers.
Montgomery has had so much history within its borders when it comes to the civil rights movement and it is great to see the city honour those who paved the way for everyone else.
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