On February 4, 1913--one hundred years ago today--Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Later she would marry and take her husband's last name, becoming Rosa Parks, a name that continues to inspire so many of us today.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks did one thing that will forever inscribe her in our nation's history: she boarded a bus and dared to sit down where she wanted.
It might seem like a small thing--a 42-year-old woman wanting to sit down after a hard day's work--but it was not. In choosing to be arrested rather than move from the whites-only section of the Cleveland Avenue transit bus, she helped set in motion the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Dr. King said, "No one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.'"
The bus where Rosa Parks sat on December 1, 1955, now prominently displayed in the Henry Ford
Museum in Dearborn, MI, which I have visited several times.
On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld a federal district court's ruling that Alabama's racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. Soon after, Montgomery changed its bus segregation law and the boycott ended. But by then, the Civil Rights Movement had achieved the critical mass necessary to help eliminate segregation in many areas of American life.
In the years since then, the Federal Transit Administration has worked hard to eliminate discriminatory barriers of all types on America's public transit systems. The FTA has also worked to increase minority and lower-income engagement in the transit planning process.As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said:
“The FTA is proud to carry on the legacy of Rosa Parks every day as we ensure that all transit riders are treated with dignity and respect and have equal access to transit. No one should ever be prevented from connecting with their families, meeting friends, or visiting their local downtown centers. And FTA will continue to work diligently to safeguard the civil rights of all transit riders in every community.”
Rosa Parks could little have anticipated the energy with which FTA has pursued improved access to transit for all Americans. But there is no doubt that our efforts owe a tremendous debt to her courageous action.
On behalf of transit riders across the nation and all who enjoy greater freedoms today, we at DOT want to honor the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks by reminding readers about a true American hero.