The National Statuary Hall in Washington, DC displays about 100 sculptures representing the most prominent figures in American history. , an African American woman was added to this collection for the first time: Rosa Parks, the woman who had the courage to say
no to a law promoting racial discrimination.
in Montgomery, Alabama, World War II veteran James Fred Blake was driving bus number 2857. Rosa Parks got on the bus, where there were three other African Americans, along with some white passengers. Around 6:00 pm the bus began to get full, and all the seats were taken. Blake told the African American passengers to get up because other white passengers were getting on, and according to state law, they were required to stand and give up their seat.
It was not the first time that Rosa Parks was a passenger on a bus driven by Blake. In , she boarded the bus and paid her fare, but Blake told her that, according to the law, she couldn’t go through the main door and had to enter through the back door instead. Parks was forced to get off the bus, and when she was about to enter the back door of the bus, the driver drove away, leaving her in the rain.
Twelve years later, she was once again facing the driver’s threat: obey an immoral law or face the consequences.
Parks refused to obey, to everyone’s surprise, including the African American passengers who had gotten up from their seats. Blake contacted the police, and Parks was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.
People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in, Parks said years later.
The news of a woman being arrested for refusing to follow a discriminatory law reached a Baptist minister who was relatively unknown at the time, Martin Luther King, Jr. In response, he supported a boycott of the public transportation system in Montgomery.
Montgomery’s African American residents stopped riding the buses for 381 days, which cost them a lot of personal sacrifice since they had to get around by walking. As a result, dozens of public buses remained idle for months. The bus company’s profits were severely hurt, to the point where the public transport authority was forced to end the practice of racial segregation on buses. This event spawned more protests against other practices of segregation.
Blake continued to insist that he was only following the law. The driver remained at the bus company for another 19 years, and today he is sadly remembered as a symbol of the arrogance of a discriminatory law. On the other hand, today, alongside the marble and bronze statues of figures such as Samuel Adams, George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower, stands the image of Rosa Parks, as a tribute to the community struggle against absurd laws, and as a reminder that an act of courage can change history.