A new gallery exhibit featuring Rosa Parks’ original fingerprint card and other personal effects from the Library of Congress’ collection will be on display beginning Dec. 1 as Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum celebrates Rosa Parks Day and observes the 65th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
In 2018, the Alabama Legislature unanimously approved a bill declaring Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day in the state, making Alabama one of four states to designate holidays in honor of Parks and marking the first Alabama holiday to honor a woman. Dec. 1 marks the anniversary of Parks’ historic 1955 arrest after she refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white male passenger. Her arrest sparked a boycott of the Montgomery city buses by the African American community, eventually leading to the desegregation of the city’s public bus system.
The free exhibit, “Tired of Giving In: 65 Years Since the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” will be available for viewing in the museum’s gallery Dec. 1-18.
The observance will also feature the premiere of one of the museum’s two new traveling exhibits – “The Women of the Movement.” The traveling exhibits were made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ African American History and Culture program.
“The Women of the Movement” exhibit utilizes oral history interviews, digitized archival material and court documents to tell the heroic stories of Jo Ann Robinson, Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith and Lucille Times, among others, while also highlighting important grassroot political organizations such as the Women’s Political Council. The exhibit will be on display on the second floor of the Children’s Wing Dec. 1-18.
The other traveling exhibit, “The Legacy of Rosa Parks” provides an overview of the history of the Rosa Parks Museum, the life of Mrs. Parks, the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the relevance of nonviolent disobedience today. The exhibit will be on display at Maxwell Air Force Base on Dec. 1.
Admission to the museum and the Children’s Wing will be free from Dec. 1-5, and while supplies last, visitors can receive a commemorative Rosa Parks Museum coin inscribed with December 1, 1955, the date of Mrs. Parks’ arrest. The City of Montgomery’s 1950s era bus will also be on display from noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 1.
In addition, the museum will offer free guided virtual tours Dec. 2-4. Tours will last about 30 minutes with a 10-minute question and answer period. Virtual tours will take place beginning at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2, noon on Dec. 3, and 3 p.m. on Dec. 4. Sign up for the virtual tours at www.troy.edu/rosaparks.
The museum is also proud to partner with the City of Montgomery to create seat covers for MATS buses that highlight Mrs. Parks and Browder v. Gayle, the court case that declared segregation aboard public buses unconstitutional.
“The cover will give a description of Rosa Parks’ arrest and Rosa Parks Day, as well as a summary of the Browder v. Gayle court case,” said Donna Beisel, Assistant Director of the museum. “The seat covers will serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices of Mrs. Parks and the women of Browder v. Gayle and their efforts to bring about necessary change in an unjust system.”
The museum will wrap up its celebration on Saturday, Dec. 5 with “Memories from the Movement: A Child’s Perspective,” featuring Meta Ellis, daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Graetz, supporters of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The presentation will be held in the museum’s auditorium, and masks and social distancing will be required. A clip of the short film, “Architects of Change,” created by Brooke and Breanna Bennett, will also be shown during the program. Items will be collected for the Bennett’s non-profit organization, Women in Training, Inc. (WIT), a youth empowerment organization that advocates for menstrual equity, menstrual education and engages girls and nonbinary youth, ages 10 to 18, in community service and social justice.
The program will close with a musical composition dedicated to Mrs. Parks, written by composer and trained vocalist Mason Byrnes from Sugarland, Texas, and performed by the brass quartet, The Westerlies.
In addition to activities at the museum, St. Paul AME Church will host events to commemorate Rosa Parks Day. A United Walk to Celebrate Rosa Parks’ Faith and the Legacy in the Civil Rights Movement will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. The unity walk will begin at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and end at the Rosa Parks Museum. For additional information, visit http://rosaparksdayinalabama.com/.