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Huntsville celebrates Rosa Parks Day – few other states mark Dec. 1 for recognition

HUNTSVILLE – Over the years, the Rosa Parks bus has become a symbol of the fight for equal rights. It has been fully restored and is now displayed in the Henry Ford Museum. Rosa Parks’ Day, on February 4, is also known as the Day of Courage.

Alabama observes Rosa Parks Day statewide as does New York. Three states – California, Missouri and Ohio – recognize the day on a city-by-city choice. If a local group and a U.S. state representative get their wish, that will soon change.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), who represents the state’s 7th Congressional District in Washington, has introduced the Rosa Parks Day Act that would make Dec. 1 a national holiday.

On a gray, wet Friday morning at the Huntsville Transit Transfer Station on Church Street, David Person of the Rosa Parks Day Committee of Huntsville-Madison County told a media gathering he hopes the bill becomes reality:

“This is something our committee has supported,’’ Person said amid the backdrop of buses pulling in and out of the transfer point. “It’s something we’ve been hoping for, and it’s something we continue to support. We hope that we can count on the City of Huntsville to stand with us.’’

The media event was held in conjunction with the city’s sixth year of celebrating Rosa Parks Day with free fixed-route rides on the transit system. On Dec. 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger and move to the “colored’’ section.

Her stance against the racially-motivated policy made her a Civil Rights Movement icon. Mayor Tommy Battle and other representatives spoke briefly at Friday’s ceremony. Along with free rides, city buses were to keep the first seat open. Those seats were decorated with a seat cover, ribbon and plaque in remembrance of Parks who was a member of AKA. 

“It’s been 68 years since Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat to the back of the bus, in Montgomery,’’ Battle said. “That moment started a movement that shook loose the constraints of segregation and acted as a catalyst of change across this nation. Today we recognize that. And today we can proudly say Huntsville Transit equally serves everyone in Huntsville regardless of color, creed or socio-economic background. Much of that is owed to Rosa Parks.’’

Parks’ act of peaceful defiance resulted in her arrest and led to the Montgomery bus boycott, a seminal event in the Civil Rights Movement. According to www.timeanddate.com, the boycott lasted for 381 days, into December 1956, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses should be integrated. This boycott kick-started other civil rights protests throughout the U.S.

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