Last week, for the third time in my life, I sat in a bus and nearly cried. But not for the reason you might think.
My daughter and I had returned to Dearborn, Michigan, to visit the Henry Ford Museum. The museum has a number of historical artifacts on display including cars and buses. The bus where I was sitting had once worked the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, and served as the scene for one of the most courageous uses of the word, “no” in US history. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a group of white people who had stepped on the bus. Her refusal was illegal under city ordinance and was voiced at a time when the KKK actively hunted down those who fought against segregation. Her act was courageous and it led to her arrest.
This is a story that many of us here in the US were taught in high school. I know I was. But sitting in that bus, looking around, and hearing the story yet again, brought me to tears. I admire her courage while at the same time, am pained by the reality of the challenges that she and so many others faced during segregation.
The Montgomery bus boycott, initiated on December 5 when Parks was found guilty by the court, brought the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, into the news. King was deeply involved in the boycott, and argued for the boycott with this call: ‘‘I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong.… If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong’’ (King Online Encyclopedia, Stanford King Institute, Montgomery Bus Boycott). Less than a year later, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Montgomery bus segregation law unconstitutional. The decision propelled the civil rights movement.
On Monday, January 16 we observe Martin Luther King, Jr, day where we remember not only King but all of the people who helped the US move closer to the ideals spelled out in our constitution, where the blessings of liberty are secured for all.