Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rosa Parks Bus

James F. Blake  bus driver's seat
Behold the infamous seat from which James F. Blake told Rosa Parks she needed to move to the back of the bus on December 1, 1955. While Montgomery City Code, chapter 6 section 11 gave Blake the right to tell her to move, her subsequent refusal sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and began the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Montgomery Improvement Association elected pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to president of their group and leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement. King’s success in Montgomery gave him the momentum to strive for more rights for African Americans.

Consider the situation, what if Blake had been easier going, and hadn’t enforced the rule. He may have lost his job, but the boycott may not have occurred, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may never have gotten involved in the civil rights movement.

Rear Seat of the Bus
Secondly, this was before cell phones. The event happened on a Friday afternoon, during rush hour. Imagine today, a bus driver pulling over with a full load of passengers to use a phone and wait for the police to arrive so they could arrest Rosa. Do you think, it would happen today?

It is simply amazing, how Rosa Parks’ refusal, and the subsequent actions worked together to result in one of the most important events in U.S. history. Rosa Parks was not the first rider to refuse to move. It had happened on other buses in Montgomery, but none had the same result. For some reason, Rosa Parks’ refusal galvanized the community to work together to end legal segregation.

After the incident Rosa Parks and her husband lost their jobs, and could not find employment in Montgomery. Today, people consider her a hero, but in 1955 many people in the United States considered her a troublemaker or worse. The Parks moved to Detroit, where she died at the age of 92 on October 24th, 2005.

It was on the Cleveland Avenue Bus, number 2857 that Rosa Parks and James F. Blake had their encounter that made history. The Henry Ford Museum paid $492,000 for the bus, and an additional $300,000 to restore the bus to its mint condition. The bus is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

(Pictures and text by Bruce G. Smith)

The Cleveland Ave Bus number 2857

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