40 Years Later, Rosa Parks Celebrated For Her Historic Defiance
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Rosa Parks came home Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of her historic refusal to give up her seat to a white man.
``When we made the breakthrough in Montgomery with the buses, that was just the beginning of our stride toward freedom,″ Coretta Scott King said.
Mrs. King and Mrs. Parks, joined by a new generation of familiar civil rights names _ Martin Luther King III, Ralph Abernathy III, Jesse Jackson Jr. _ kicked off five days of events commemorating the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott that helped bring down segregation laws across the South.
The boycott in Alabama’s capital demonstrated the strength of black unity as a young preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., galvanized crowds in churches with his call for a non-violent social revolution.
The boycott led to a Supreme Court order against segregation of public transportation, opening the door for blacks to gain equal access to all public accommodations.
Anniversary events included a ceremony at the Montgomery Street site outside the Empire Theater where Mrs. Parks was arrested Dec. 1, 1955. She was jailed for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back as new white riders boarded the bus.
``I’m just overwhelmed by this wonderful reception,″ said Mrs. Parks, 82, who now lives in Detroit. ``I’m looking forward to an educational and inspirational weekend.″
Mrs. King called for a new kind of movement _ not a boycott but a turnout of voters to elect candidates who will serve the interests of minorities. She also said blacks need to create companies to strengthen minorities economically.
``We have a long way to go,″ she said, ``and I think we have to organize and become empowered through our own means, by pooling our resources.″
Others agreed that there is no time for complacency.
``It looks like to a point we moved forward,″ said Thelma Glass, a boycott veteran, ``but we moved to a standstill, and to me it seems we’re backing up.″