Today, President Obama will present the unveiling of a magnificent 9-foot statue of Rosa Parks in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. This year marks the 100th birthday of the civil rights icon. The statue will be the first of an African American woman in our nations’ Capitol.
On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and other boycotts around the country. Rosa Parks was called, the mother of the freedom movement by many.
Rosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on the bus; there was Irene Morgan of Virginia in 1944, Sarah Louise Keys in 1953, Aurelia Browder and 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, both in 1955. However, it was decided that Rosa Parks’ arrest for civil disobedience would be the best to highlight with the Alabama courts by the NAACP and her legal counsel.
Parks was serving a dual role as a seamstress and as secretary to the NAACP during the time of the incident. Though she lost her job at a local department store, her actions led to her image as an icon for change, giving hope and pride to many who wished to change the racist conditions in America.
The change of Alabama’s bus segregation laws was decided through the Browder vs. Gayle case in 1956. With the consult of NAACP legal representatives Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, the bus segregation cases of Mary Louise Smith, Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, and Susie were re-opened in a civil suit against the City of Montgomery. W.A. Gayle, the mayor of Montgomery was named as the defendant in the case. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and by November 1956, bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional. The decision was enforced in Montgomery one month later.
Rosa Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Springarn Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and she is the first woman to lie in state at Capitol Hill’s rotunda.
Parks legacy is told in her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story. Since her passing, a host of streets, buildings, schools and events have been named in her honor. In addition, the bus that sparked the controversial event is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
This year, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Rosa Parks stamp on the 100th birthday of the civil rights’ legend. The stamp, which was created by art director Derry Noyes and stamp artist Thomas Blackshear II, is part of the Civil Rights series, which will include the March on Washington and the Emancipation Proclamation. The value is equivalent to first-class postage.