It all started with a bus. The Greater Dayton RTA will honor civil rights icon Rosa Parks by reserving a seat in her name at the front of every bus as part of a celebration for Black History Month. All RTA fixed-route buses will have a seat reserved in honor of Rosa Parks through the month of February.
On Dec. 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks was sitting in the “colored” section toward the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala. As the bus began to fill up, the driver ordered Mrs. Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger but she refused. The 42-year-old was arrested and briefly jailed for this refusal—which sparked an expansive bus boycott by the Montgomery Improvement Association. The MIA, led by civil rights newcomer Martin Luther King Jr., began the boycott on Dec. 5, 1955 when Mrs. Parks was found guilty of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. Blacks were encouraged not to ride the bus, and many walked as far as 20 miles in support of the movement. The bus boycott lasted 381 days and officially ended when the city repealed its law requiring segregation on public buses, prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that this segregation was unconstitutional.
Mrs. Parks became an international symbol for civil disobedience and resistance to racial segregation, dedicating her life to the cause of civil rights. Her quiet strength made a seat available for everyone, everywhere. The agency would ask passengers to respect the sign reserving this seat, and also honor Mrs. Parks during Black History Month by choosing another place to sit in the interim.
A mural featuring lesser-known African Americans who helped shape the United States throughout history is also displayed for the month of February in the passenger concourse of Wright Stop Plaza at
4 S. Main Street in downtown Dayton.
Included on the mural are:
Amelia Robinson: “Bloody Sunday” marcher in Selma, Alabama
Bessie Coleman: First black female pilot
Claudette Colvin: Civil rights activist who helped end segregation on buses
Doris Miller: World War II and Pearl Harbor hero
Dr. Rebecca L. Crumpler: First black female doctor
Gladys West: Inventor of GPS
Irene Morgan Kirkaldy: Activist who helped end segregation on Greyhound buses
Matthew Henson: Explorer who was among first to reach the North Pole
Robert Smalls: Former slave who stole a Confederate ship; first black U.S. Congressman