Hundreds gathered in the Alabama capital of Montgomery’s downtown this past weekend for the unveiling of a new statue honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
On Sunday, city officials dedicated the life-size bronze sculpture alongside other tributes for the late Alabama native. The unveiling marked the 64th anniversary of Parks’ history-making arrest, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus on Dec. 1, 1955.
The arrest was a catalyst for the Montgomery Bus Boycott that challenged racial segregation on public transportation. The 361-day protest would lead to the desegregation of Montgomery’s public buses in 1956 after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean spoke the ceremony, saying Parks was “more than deserving” of the honor.
“This is a great day for Montgomery County,” said Dean, according to local station WSFA 12. “The seeds she planted are ever continuing to be harvested. Because of Mrs. Parks’ courageous stance, I am able to hold the position I do as Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission. She paved the way for us, both minorities and women, we stand on her shoulders and we are forever grateful.”
The statue is located just feet from where Parks’ is believed to have boarded the bus the day she was arrested by police.
“She is standing where she belongs at the heart of Montgomery where the historical civil rights movement all started,” he added.
The City of Montgomery, in partnership with the Montgomery County Commission, the State of Alabama Department of Tourism and the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts funded the project, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. Local artist and sculptor Clydetta Fulmer was commissioned to complete the statue of Parks.
Last year, state lawmakers voted to mark Dec. 1 as Mrs. Rosa Parks Day.
In addition to the memorial, the city also presented four markers honoring plaintiffs in the landmark Browder v. Gayle case, which ruled race-based segregation on public buses unconstitutional. Fred Gray, the attorney who represented Parks as well as the Browder v. Gayle plaintiffs, attended Sunday’s dedication and lauded their roles in the fight for civil rights.
“For the city officials, from the city and the county, to be able to honor Mrs. Parks and honor those plaintiffs, and even more importantly to honor the 40,000 African-American men and women who stayed off of the buses for 382 days, it is indeed a step in the right direction,” the 88-year-old Gray told the newspaper.
Parks passed away in 2005. She was 92 years old.