Today is the semicentennial anniversary of the day Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a public bus in Montgomery, Ala.
The Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom will hold a 50th anniversary commemoration event today from noon to 2 p.m. There will also be a poetry reading inspired by the event from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. in the Marshall Center room 296. It is sponsored by the Africana studies department in conjunction with the Africana Studies Club, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Institute on Black Life and the USF chapter of the NAACP.
According to Eric Duke, faculty adviser for the Africana Studies Club, many people have noted the impending anniversary of this event, and after Parks’ death, it became imperative that something be done to commemorate the occasion. The program for today’s event includes songs, poems and dramatic monologues inspired by or related to the Montgomery bus boycott. There will be both faculty and student speakers involved and refreshments will be served.
“This event is probably one the most important events in reference to the civil rights movement. Its relevance stretched far beyond 1950s Montgomery,” Duke said.
Across the country, speeches will be given, gatherings will be held and public transportation systems such as the Metropolitan Transit Authority will leave on the headlights of nearly 6,000 buses.
On buses in New York City and Long Island, there will be a symbolic empty seat reserved behind the driver. Above the seat, there will be a poster displayed with a picture of Parks with the inscription, “It All Started on a Bus.”
The civil rights movement began in 1954 with the Brown v. the Board of Education case. By ruling against the segregation of public schools, the Supreme Court dealt a fatal blow to the precedent set in 1896 by the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which ruled that the segregation of blacks and whites was permissible as long as equal accommodations were made.
Parks’ refusal to give up her seat and her subsequent arrest served as a catalyst for the movement. Originally, the boycott was staged by the leaders of the Women’s Political Council as a protest against her arrest. The success of the one-day boycott led to the involvement of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. who decided to extend the boycott.
The Montgomery Improvement Association was created to oversee details such as alternate transportation for participants. The boycott lasted for 381 days and ultimately cost the Montgomery public bus company more than $750,000.