3/10/2008 - Rosa Parks inducted into Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
By Michael J. Brooks
Rosa McCauley Parks, called the "mother of the civil rights movement," was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame at Judson College on Thursday, March 6.
Parks, who died in 2005, is most remembered for her act of civil disobedience on a Montgomery, Ala. bus on Dec. 1, 1955.
While working as a seamstress in a Montgomery department store, Parks boarded city bus 5726 and sat in the section reserved for blacks. A few moments later the driver asked her and three others to vacate their seats for white passengers. Three passengers complied, but Parks refused.
"She was not the first African-American to be arrested for violating the bus regulation, but she was the first to plead 'not guilty' and take the system to court," said induction speaker Dr. Wayne Flynt, Auburn University professor emeritus.
Parks' protest brought about the founding of the Montgomery Improvement Association which was directed by Montgomery pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The organization launched a boycott of city buses which eventually ended segregation in Montgomery's public transportation.
Flynt noted that a poll of historians selected the ten most important women of the twentieth century, and two Alabamians made the list: Parks and Helen Keller.
" . . . they had much in common," Flynt said. "Both suffered the indignity of discrimination. Both were enormously courageous. Both chose to light candles in a dark world that did not understand them and tried to marginalize them rather than curse the darkness. Both left Alabama to celebrate their fame elsewhere. Both bequeathed a worldwide legacy that traced back to their origins in Alabama. Neither was an island unto herself."
Keller was inducted into the AWHOF in 1971.
Illustrating Parks' courage, Flynt noted that she received death threats and was fired from her job in 1956. She and her husband moved to Detroit where they still had trouble finding work. Parks left her family for a time to work in Virginia, and later returned to Detroit where she became a staff employee of U.S. Rep. John Conyers.
Installation speaker Georgette Norman, director of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, said that Parks faced powerful opposition with her refusal to vacate her seat, but "her quiet 'no' echoes across the decades," she said. "It is a symbol to all who remain free."
Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. She was the first woman and the second African-American to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol upon her death.
The Alabama Women's Hall of Fame was established by an act of the state legislature in 1970, and is housed in the A. Howard Bean Hall at Judson College. The AWHOF recognizes women of note who are natives of or closely affiliated with Alabama. Nominees must have been deceased for two years before nomination to the AWHOF board of directors.
The AWHOF website is awhf.org.
* Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department