Rosa Parks made history on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat in the colored section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a White passenger. What most people don’t realize is that Mrs. Parks wasn’t just tired and reluctant to stand up all the way home.
No – she was a dedicated civil rights activist, ready and willing to challenge bus segregation when she saw the opportunity to do so. She would later explain her actions that day by saying –
When I made that decision, I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.
For many years, America would remember Rosa Parks’ actions. But no one remembered the bus from that day that was later taken out of service and left to rust in a field for over 30 years.
In 2001, the bus was rediscovered and put up for auction. After verifying its authenticity, The Henry Ford, an American history museum located in Dearborn, Michigan, made the high bid. After winning the auction, the museum began extensive renovations on the Rosa Parks bus to restore it to the condition it was in when it made history. Read more about the bus renovation project here.
During Black History month in 2003, the Rosa Parks bus was reintroduced to public life and became a permanent exhibit at The Henry Ford.
And it’s there at the museum that I had the opportunity to climb aboard historic Bus #2857 and take a seat close to where Rosa Parks sat all those many years ago.
There was something about being on that bus that gave me an even deeper understanding of what conviction it takes to stand up for what you believe in – or sit down for it.
If you live in Michigan or have plans to travel here anytime soon, a visit to the Rosa Parks bus exhibit is a must-do.