Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TDIH: Rosa Parks, 60 Years

A message from President Obama on the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 1, 2015

Statement by the President

Rosa Parks held no elected office.  She was not born into wealth or power.  Yet sixty years ago today, Rosa Parks changed America.  Refusing to give up a seat on a segregated bus was the simplest of gestures, but her grace, dignity, and refusal to tolerate injustice helped spark a Civil Rights Movement that spread across America.  Just a few days after Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, a little-known, 26 year-old pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. stood by her side, along with thousands of her fellow citizens.  Together, they began a boycott.  Three-hundred and eighty-five days later, the Montgomery buses were desegregated, and the entire foundation of Jim Crow began to crumble. 

Like so many giants of her age, Rosa Parks is no longer with us.  But her lifetime of activism – and her singular moment of courage – continue to inspire us today.  Rosa Parks reminds us that there is always something we can do.  It is always within our power to make America better.  Because Rosa Parks kept her seat, thousands of ordinary commuters walked instead of rode.  Because they walked, countless other quiet heroes marched.  Because they marched, our union is more perfect.  Today, we remember their heroism.  Most of all, we recommit ourselves to continuing their march. 
While 60 years and the story of Rosa Parks seems but a 20th century wonder, a time in which we have moved irrevocably past, there are similarities between that day and the Montgomery bus boycott and now.

NPR did a recent story on the state of public transit in Montgomery, Alabama in 2015 which revealed disturbing details of a system underfunded and poorly thought of by those holding the state purse. Bus fare is $2, discounted by half for seniors and students. Annual fares bring in less than $1 million a year and the Montgomery transit system costs approximately $6 million. Reliance on the government, whether local, state or national, has left the system running in the red.

When President Obama says "we recommit ourselves to continuing their march," he isn't speaking just of the work of those who ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he is speaking of the larger end to Jim Crow and the segregated South. However, that end is less a set point on a timeline of history as its blurry edges are seen in the South today. Both in the ways the NPR piece portrayed, but also in the devastating blow the Supreme Court leveled against the Voting Rights Act in 2014 that caused several states to react abhorrently.

60 years on and the battle for racial equality rages on.

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