December

Rosa Parks Bus

Object: Rosa Parks Bus

Manufacturer: General Motors Corporation Truck & Bus Group

Place: Pontiac, Michigan, USA

Date of Creation: 1948

The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, USA

EMu user since 2010

Rosa Parks BusRosa Parks, a 42-year old African American seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work on December 1, 1955. By refusing to give up her seat she took a stand against discrimination and for human rights, and became a champion in the quest for freedom and equality for all Americans. Parks sat in the first row behind the “Whites Only” section in an area that could be occupied by either whites or blacks. Soon all the seats in the bus were filled. When another white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) demanded that all four blacks in the first row behind the white section give up their seats.

Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), quietly refused to give up her seat. Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice obviously inspired her. “When I made that decision,” she said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.” She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws”. Mrs Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation.

At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system that lasted 381 days. In December 1956 the US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery busses were integrated. The 1955 Montgomery bus boycott marked an extraordinary time in American history, sparking numerous other protests against Jim Crow and signalling the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. For her actions, Rosa Parks has been called “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Rosa Parks BusThe Henry Ford acquired the Rosa Parks bus in 2001 through an internet auction. The bus showed 30 years of neglect and extensive conservation effort was required. Today, the bus is featured prominently in “For Liberty and Justice for All,” an exhibition at the Henry Ford Museum. The museum encourages visitors to climb onto the bus and sit in Rosa Parks’ seat and hear her words about that eventful day.

Acknowledgements: Exterior Image: From the collections of The Henry Ford (THF77675) Photographer: Michelle Andonian

Interior Image: From the collections of The Henry Ford (THF56552) Photographer: Michelle Andonian