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ROSA PARKS
Rosa Parks smiles during a ceremony where she received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in Detroit on Nov. 28, 1999. Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died of natural causes in her Detroit home Monday, Oct. 24, 2005, she was 92. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

There's a seat — and a rose — for Rosa Parks on every bus in this Wisconsin county

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WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — Sixty-three years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her Alabama city bus seat to a white man, a mass transit system in Wisconsin reserved a seat for the civil rights icon on each of its buses over the weekend.

The Milwaukee County Transit System announced Thursday that it would place a red rose on a seat reserved in memory of the African-American woman on all buses Nov. 30 through Dec. 2.

On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks was on her way home from her job as a department store seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, when the bus driver asked her and three other black passengers to move to the back of the bus to make room for oncoming white passengers. They moved, but 42-year-old Parks refused.

According to the National Archives, racial segregation of public buses was required by city law. Parks, sitting just behind the front 10 seats permanently reserved for whites, argued that she wasn't in violation of the law. Believing it was within his power to move the dividing line, driver James Blake called police. Parks was temporarily imprisoned and charged with "refusing to obey orders of bus driver," per the police report.

Parks' arrest inspired the Montgomery bus boycott, which the National Archives reports lasted 381 days and catapulted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to national fame.

According to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, Parks was not the first to test Montgomery's bus segregation laws; Claudette Colvin, 15, and Mary Louise Smith, 18, had previously been arrested for similar offenses. "Neither arrest ... mobilized Montgomery’s black community like that of Rosa Parks later that year," the institute noted.

The 13-month-long bus boycott eventually led to the June 4, 1956, U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that declared racial segregation on public buses unconstitutional.

Rosa Parks Day is celebrated annually both on her birthday, Feb. 4, and day of her peaceful dissent, Dec. 1. In 2000, California became the first state to recognize Rosa Parks Day on Feb. 4. Ohio was the first state to celebrate the latter memorial day, in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of her refusal to give up her bus seat.

“Now, more than ever, Rosa Parks’ courage and beliefs should inspire us every day. This country was changed for the better on that December day when she refused to give into racism and oppression,” Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement provided by MCTS. “While we can never truly thank her for her brave actions, we mark the occasion to remember and honor her bravery and convictions.”

In addition to a single rose, each MCTS bus featured a placard bearing one of Parks' notable quotes: “My only concern was to get home after a hard day’s work.”

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