The city of Montgomery honored civil rights legend Rosa Parks with a new statue commemorating her work desegregating the city's bus system more than 60 years ago.
Republican Governor Kay Ivey and Montgomery's first Black mayor Steven Reed unveiled the statue during a ceremony on Sunday celebrating the 64th anniversary of Park's arrest after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.
On the 64th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, we honor Rosa Parks by dedicating this statue in her name. I hope its presence will remind us of the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement & ensure that future generations will be better & do better. #AL200 #AL200Countdown pic.twitter.com/KU65BiI5Vv— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) December 1, 2019
Her daring act kicked off the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.-organized Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of America's biggest and longest boycotts ever. Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed an act designating December 1 as Rosa Parks Day.
Nearly 400 people attended the ceremony as both Ivey and Reed gave speeches about Parks' importance to the city, state and country.
"Today, on the second official Rosa Parks Day, we honor a seamstress and a servant, one whose courage ran counter to her physical stature. She was a consummate contributor to equality and did so with a quiet humility that is an example for all of us," Reed said according to WTKR.
In addition to the statue, there are four additional markers made of granite to honor the four other women involved in the landmark court case that sprung from the boycott. The Browder v. Gayle case made it to the Supreme Court and forced the court to rule that the bus segregation was unconstitutional.
Historical markers for the four women who were represented in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that deemed segregation on public buses illegal. #CivilRights #civilrightsmemorial pic.twitter.com/LcC3ZVcGEp— Sara MacNeil (@sara_macneil) December 1, 2019
Fred Gray, attorney who defended Rosa Parks. Gray defended the four women mistreated on Montgomery buses in Browder v. Gayle. Gray defended many civil rights heroes fighting segregation. #MontgomeryBusBoycott pic.twitter.com/3SWit1HaAP— Sara MacNeil (@sara_macneil) December 1, 2019
The attorney who defended Parks, Fred Gray, attended the ceremony along with Mary Louise Smith, another plaintiff in the case.
The statue, built by artist Clydetta Fulmer, is located near Montgomery Plaza at the Court Street Fountain, which AL.com said was just 30 feet from where Parks made her stand against a racist bust driver. It was commissioned by the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Alabama Department of Tourism and the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts.
The bus boycott became one of the hallmarks of Parks' civil rights career. However, Parks had been a longtime activist, researcher and investigator, working with the NAACP on campaigns to stop the persistent sexual violence committed against Black women.
A decade before #RosaParks refused to give a white man her seat on a Montgomery bus, she investigated the vicious Recy Taylor rape case in Abbeville, AL for the @NAACP and led a national campaign against sexual assault on black women. She worked for equality her whole life. pic.twitter.com/NJE3McLmwK— Ava DuVernay (@ava) December 1, 2019
"For the city officials, from the city and the county, to be able to honor Mrs. Parks and honor those plaintiffs, and even more importantly to honor the 40,000 African American men and women who stayed off of the buses for 382 days, it is indeed a step in the right direction," Gray told the Montgomery Advertiser.