CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Clarksville Transit System is reserving a seat for Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights activist who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, on its buses this week.
On Monday, CTS placed a poster showing a portrait of Parks in a front seat on each bus. The poster includes this text:
“THIS SEAT IS RESERVED FOR ROSA PARKS, CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER.
“On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., public bus in defiance of 'Jim Crow' segregation laws.
“Her action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation on public transit systems is unconstitutional. The boycott helped end segregation of public facilities in the United States.
“Dec. 1 has been declared Rosa Parks Day in Tennessee, and this week Clarksville Transit System is reserving this seat in her honor.”
Rosa McCauley was born on Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Ala. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks. The couple was active in the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full, according to her history recorded in the Library of Congress.
“I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home,” Parks said in her autobiography.
Although her arrest was not planned, Park’s action was consistent with the NAACP’s desire to challenge segregated public transport in the courts. A one-day bus boycott coinciding with Parks’s Dec. 5 court date resulted in an African-American boycott of the bus system. Since black people were 70 percent of the transit system’s riders, most buses carried few passengers that day.
The boycott led to sustained action. Leaders met at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (later the Southern Christian Leadership Conference). Dexter’s new pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was appointed the group’s leader. For the next year, the Montgomery Improvement Association coordinated the bus boycott and King, an eloquent young preacher, inspired those who refused to ride.
Rosa and Raymond Parks later moved to Detroit where, for more than 20 years, she worked for U.S. Rep. John Conyers.
Rosa Parks died on Oct. 24, 2005, at age 92, at her home in Detroit, Mich. Parks became the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. She also received the Rosa Parks Peace Prize awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1994, and the U.S. Medal of Freedom, awarded in 1996.
A Rosa Parks poster reserves a seat in honor of the Civil Rights pioneer on each CTS bus this week.