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.
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.”