CNN Black History Month


Montgomery celebrates
civil rights movement

From Correspondent Kalin Thomas-Samuel

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Montgomery, a city with a history of racial segregation and hostilities, offers a variety of historical sites that honor African Americans and the civil rights movement.

It is the home of the legendary Rosa Parks, and you still can see where she was arrested 40 years ago when she refused to give up her seat on a bus and move to the back of the vehicle, where blacks were supposed to sit.


Parks' stand prompted the Montgomery bus boycott, which led to a nationwide boycott of public transportation by black Americans fighting for the right to sit anywhere they wanted.

"I was very determined to let it be known that we as a people, and I as an individual, had suffered that kind of humiliation far too long," Parks said in December 1995, kicking off the 40th anniversary of the boycott.


A celebration of the boycott will last 381 days, as did the boycott itself, and will spread to 40 other cities where the civil rights movement brought major change.

As part of the celebration, a 1950s bus was parked one night at the Montgomery Street spot where Parks refused to move from her seat. The bus was a big hit for tourists, who sat in the seat where Parks took her famous stand.

The experience brought back memories.

"My father had his cars picking up the elderly people, and we would make up a song, 'Boycott the bus 'til they respect us,'" said Dorothy Tillman, now a Chicago alderman.

Not far from the site on South Jackson Street is the home of Martin Luther King Jr., where he lived for a brief time. Down the street, visitors can view pictures from the movement and talk to King's former barber.


Montgomery also offers a black history tour. The tour begins at the capital building where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy. King spoke from the same spot after the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Finally, tourists can visit Montgomery's Civil Rights Memorial, dedicated to 40 black and white Alabamans who died during the civil rights struggle.



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