The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), in collaboration with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), held a two-day program in Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 4 and 5, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. The bus boycott and the actions of Parks, who died last October, are commonly recognized to have helped instigate the modern civil rights movement.
The two-day event included a ride on the Montgomery Area Transit System’s historic 1956 replica bus, a tour of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum and a FTA-sponsored workshop on transportation equity. Additionally, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was on hand to present a keynote speech at the program’s “town hall meeting.”
COMTO, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, plans to re-convene in December to hold another commemoration ceremony.
The organization, dedicated to advocacy and information sharing, is considering making the commemoration ceremony an annual event.
“Rosa Parks’ actions are a reminder that the solidarity and tenacity of African Americans moved the Supreme Court to outlaw segregation on public transportation,” said Julie Cunningham, president of COMTO. “We must continue to recognize this, as minorities are still the largest providers of fares and taxes for public transportation, yet inequalities are still too prevalent.”
Rosa Parks passed away Oct. 24 at the age of 92. In addition to her role in starting the bus boycott, Parks was also a passionate civil rights activist, a secretary with the NAACP and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr.
As a result of her revolutionary civil disobedience, Dec. 1 was recognized as “National Transit Tribute to Rosa Parks Day.” Transit agencies across the nation reserved a bus seat in her honor for the day.