A statue of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was unveiled in Alabama on Sunday, December 1, 64 years to the day she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man.
Montgomery mayor Steven Reed and Alabama governor Kay Ivey unveiled the statue in front of a crowd of around 400 people on Sunday, which also marks the state’s second annual Rosa Parks Day.
The statue shows Parks standing firm in a long coat with her hands clutching her purse in front of her, and stands just a few feet away from where she boarded the now infamous city bus.
Parks became the ‘the first lady of civil rights’ on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus for a white man. Her subsequent arrest prompted a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system, organised by Martin Luther King Jr.
This boycott led to the Supreme Court desegregating public transportation in Montgomery, although it wasn’t until the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all public places were desegregated nationwide.
Mayor Steven Reed, the city’s first African American mayor, said at the ceremony, as per CNN News:
Today, on the second official Rosa Parks Day, we honour a seamstress and a servant, one whose courage ran counter to her physical stature. She was a consummate contributor to equality and did so with a quiet humility that is an example for all of us.
Governor Kay Ivey added: ‘No person ever stood so tall as did Rosa Parks when she sat down.’
Parks’ act of defiance made her a major symbol of the civil rights movement and marked her place in history; following her arrest, she spent her life working to improve the lives of others, working at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
There, she served as secretary and later youth leader of the local branch in an attempt to eliminate race-based discrimination. A lot of Parks’ work centred around young people.
Her memorial was erected in partnership with the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Alabama Department of Tourism and the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts.
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said the statue had been ‘a long time coming’, adding, as per ABC News: ‘Mrs. Rosa Parks is more than deserving as she represents all of the many foot soldiers who sacrificed their lives and families to make a change.’
City officials held several events throughout Montgomery to honour the civil rights icon over the weekend.
Parks died in 2005 at the age of 92.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).