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New downtown Montgomery park pays tribute to Rosa Parks

June 25, 2018

A park, located in downtown Montgomery on the site of the department store where Rosa Parks worked as a seamstress, officially opened on Thursday with some special elements paying tribute to the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

The pocket part, located between buildings at 29 Dexter Ave., has been designated Lower Dexter Park and includes elements of the original Montgomery Fair Department Store façade and a concrete marker containing a quote from Parks.

Dr. Felicia Bell, director of the Rosa Parks Museum, speaks during the opening of Lower Dexter Park.

Dr. Felicia Bell, director of Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum, joined Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, city officials and local historians in unveiling the marker that reads, “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”

“This was the former location of the Montgomery Fair Department Store where Mrs. Parks worked as a seamstress and an assistant to the tailor,” Dr. Bell said. “The public is open to enjoying this very peaceful place for relaxing and reflecting. There is a great historical marker with information about the store and Mrs. Parks. We appreciate Mayor Strange and the city for involving us in this process and ceremony.”

During the ceremony, Dr. Bell reflected on what she would have encountered on that spot 63 years ago, noting that she, like Mrs. Parks and other African Americans, would not have been allowed to enter the store’s front entrance, try on clothes or shoes, or dine at the store’s lunch counter.

“I cannot imagine dealing with the oppression, indignation and humiliation of segregation on a daily basis,” Dr. Bell said. “In a letter she drafted to a potential donor to the NAACP, Mrs. Parks wrote ‘This thing called segregation here is a complete and solid pattern as a way of life. We are conditioned to it and make the best of a bad situation.’ I’m so grateful that she got tired of making the best of a bad situation.”

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Dr. Felicia Bell join others in unveiling a marker containing a quote from Mrs. Parks.

Dr. Bell said the park provides a memorial of sorts and the opportunity for those who visit it to reflect on past events.

“I do think it is important for us to maintain our connections to the past in order to give us some perspective on how we have advanced socially,” she said. “It is important to remember this space, what occurred here and what daily life was like for black people here in Montgomery, as well as the event that changed all of that on the day that Mrs. Parks was arrested. I look at this space as being a unique memorial where we can think about not only where we have been but where we need to go.”