Our plan for today was to devote the entire day to a study of the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights in March of 1965. Well, the federal government “shutdown” caused us to change our plans. Two of the major venues that we were going to visit are operated by the National Park Service, so – no business there.
This was irritating, to say the least, and I have a strong opinion about what is behind it, but I will refrain from expressing that opinion here and now.
In Selma, no one could shut us out from visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the confrontations on Bloody Sunday and Turnaround Tuesday took place.
We wandered around in Selma a bit, and we looked at two of the churches that were instrumental staging grounds for the protest marches. We spent quite a bit of time in the Voting Rights Museum, which is not operated by the federal government. Then we went back to Montgomery for a visit to the Rosa Parks Museum.
Rosa is my hero today. Ten years before the voting rights protest marches, in 1955, Rosa made history by submitting to arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat in response to orders from the bus driver. There are quite a few different versions of the story, and these different versions differ somewhat in their detail. To sort it all out, I went to the book that Parks herself wrote, and I checked out her version of the story. In her version, she was sitting in the part of the bus that was meant for black passengers. When the number of white passengers grew beyond the number of seats for the whites, that’s when the bus driver tried to open up more seats for them by ordering four black riders to move. Three of them did move; Rosa did not. The rest is history, as they say. (I am more than a little curious why so many sources indicate that Parks sat down in the white section of the bus. She did not. To me, it seems that this “small” detail makes a big difference to the feel of the story.)
One of the things that was news to me is how the black community managed to sustain a bus boycott for over a year. Rather than everyone walking, many of the churches were able to buy cars and provide a makeshift transportation system. They were able to buy cars because donations were coming in from all over the world. How cool is that!?)
I was also happy and a little surprised to learn more about Rosa Parks’ life after the boycott. I didn’t know that she moved to Michigan, for safety reasons, and served as an aide to a congressman for over 20 years. I had forgotten that President Clinton had invited her to one of his State of the Union speeches. You could say that she really didn’t do much when she refused to give up her seat, but she surely became an icon of the movement. As I say, today she is my hero.
It was quite cool to stand in the very place in which she was arrested.