“Women who behave rarely make history” is the slogan at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, in downtown Montgomery, AL on the Troy University campus.
On Monday we visited the museum honoring Ms. Parks, known as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. Photographs are not allowed inside the museum. It contains a visual re-enactment of the historic day, as well as many documents, photographs, memorabilia from the era.
The bus system in Montgomery was segregated. African-Americans would enter the front of the bus, put in the fare, exit the bus, then walk to the back of the bus and re-enter. All the while praying the bus driver did not take off, which happened on many occasions.
On December 1, 1955, 42-year-old Parks boarded the bus on her way home from work. By law, the first 10 seats of the bus were reserved for whites, and Ms. Parks sat in the row behind those. The bus was very crowded, standing room only, and when the bus driver noticed a white man standing, he stopped the bus and ordered Ms. Parks and 3 other African-Americans to vacate their seats. Ms. Parks quietly refused, and the bus driver contacted the police and had her arrested. Her case went to trial on December 5, where she was found guilty and fined for disorderly conduct. This was despite that fact she was not in violation of the law, as she was not sitting in a “white only” area.
After her arrest, thousands of flyers were distributed by the Women’s Political Council of Montgomery, requesting a boycott of the bus system on December 5. At the same time, a group of ministers and local activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and decided they needed to continue boycotting the bus system. The elected a new minister to Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr., as president of the MIA. Dr. King advocated non-violent protests, and they organized car pools so citizens would be able to continue getting to their jobs. The MIA met numerous times with the mayor and city bus officials, to work out a resolution. They were not seeking to overturn segregation of the bus system, they just wanted fair treatment. The museum displays many copies of documents and petitions they filed that were repeatedly turned down.
The bus company was losing $3,000.00 a day as a result of the boycott, a substantial sum in 1955. So the bus company raised fares, which kept even more riders off the buses. The boycott lasted 381 days, and did not end until the US Supreme Court ruled that the bus segregation law was unconstitutional, and the buses were integrated in late December of 1956. But it was only the busses. The bus stops remained segregated.
The museum does not contain the actual bus involved, as that is on display in the Henry Ford Museum.
After that, we were going to go to the Hank Williams museum, but that was closed at the time.
And of course no visit can be complete than a photo of the State Capital building in Montgomery:
We stopped at Sam’s Club on the way back to the campground. Alabama charges a hefty 10% state sales tax, even on grocery items!!! If you are going to be visiting this state, stock up on groceries before you get here!!
Quote for the day: “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks