I love this land. I’m loyal to my country, I’m proud to be an American and I’m interested in its politics and its progressions. It angers me when I hear of its being demeaned and ridiculed. The United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth. My heart quickens at the sight of our beautiful flag aflutter against a pristine sky. I stand splendidly erect as I pledge allegiance to its red, white and blue, and, proudly, I belt out the words to The Star Spangled Banner. With passion and sincerity I sing the beautiful song, God Bless America.
But there is a part of our history of which I am deeply ashamed. The decades of absolutely inhumane treatment of our black people is an embarrassment. The ink that marks such story is a blight–a stain– on the history pages of the United States of America. It astonishes me to recall that it is our very recent history that speaks of such despicable acts as being common and acceptable among us–yeah, even the norm. It astounds me to recall that it was only in the year of 1955, the year I graduated from high school, that Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. Her crime? She would not move. She refused to rise from her seat and walk to the back of a city bus. It is nothing short of outrageous that she was expected to perform such a humiliating act. I regret that such a story accurately depicts a segment of my country’s history.
On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year-old woman took a seat near the front of the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Before she reached her destination, she quietly set off a social revolution when the bus driver instructed her to move, and she refused. The bus driver called the police and they arrested Rosa Parks, an African American woman of unchallenged character. The African-American community of Montgomery organized a boycott of the buses in protest of the discriminating treatment they had endured for years. The boycott, under the leadership of 26-year-old minister Martin Luther King, Jr., was a peaceful, coordinated protest that lasted 381 days and captured world attention. Mrs. Parks, who passed away on October 24, was called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” She was not the first person to be prosecuted for violating the segregation laws on the city buses, but it was her quiet act of defiance that touched a nerve in the black community of Montgomery, Alabama, and set in motion a historic act of resistance.
On this day as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, and as I duly honor him, I wish also to commemorate the brave actions of Rosa Parks. What a courageous, splendid model of humanity she was. With what distinction she served us–the peoples of the United States of America. Her heroism is noted on the City of Montgomery Warrant #14254.
Images of documents and other material courtesy of the National Archives.
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