MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Lenette Washington Bailey remembers vivid details from Dec. 1, 1955 and the days that followed Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat.
A student at Alabama State University at the time, Bailey helped hand out leaflets announcing the Montgomery Bus Boycott and took part in the first mass meeting, attended by thousands.
Bailey and five other participants in the bus protest took part in an event at ASU called "I Was There," giving interviews from their unique perspectives on events helping add to what's been written in history books.
"That first mass meeting was at Holt Street Baptist Church and that was my family's church. I was baptized there so I felt honored and you know I was going to be there," Bailey said. "I think they said there was around 15,000 people there but I think there was more than that because there was so many outside that couldn't even get inside the building. That was an exciting moment"
Oral history interviews were conducted Monday night at the Levi Watkins Learning Center's Lecture Hall. It marked the launch of a year-long history project by the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture at ASU, focused on the bus boycott.
"It's the voices, the people who participated in the boycott and getting their reminiscences about their experiences, what they remember about the mass meetings, walking, the various fundraising efforts, the transportation network, all the facets of the Montgomery Bus Boycott," said ASU Archivist Dr. Howard Robinson. "You get a perspective on historical events that is sometimes hard to translate into the written word."
Other interviews included:
Rev. Robert & Mrs. Jean Graetz, who were on the front lines of the bus protest. Rev. Graetz was the pastor of an African-American Lutheran Church in Montgomery.
Charles Varner, an Alabama State University student who attended boycott mass meetings and supported the protest against segregated bus service.
Dr. Ralph Bryson, an Alabama State University professor who attended Dexter Avenue Baptist Church during the boycott and supported the bus protest.
Nelson Malden, an Alabama State University student and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s barber who attended Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, frequented boycott mass meetings and supported the protest against Jim Crow buses.
Malden was Dr. King's barber for six years while he was in Montgomery and he discussed their relationship and shared stories from the barbershop.
"He was a great debater so we had very lively conversations on many evenings," he said. "I think it's important for young people to understand what happened back during that time and we're the people who lived through these situations so I think they'll be very proud to hear some of our stories that actually happened while the movement was going on in Montgomery."
The accounts and memories are helping paint a more vivid and accurate picture of what happened during an important episode in American history 60 years ago, allowing Alabama State to continue building a repository of invaluable historical information.
"I think it will illuminate this important historical event, an event that really had reverberations not only around this nation but around the world," Dr. Robinson said. "We have people here in Montgomery today who were a part of that. We want to celebrate them and we also want to preserve what they've done and what they've participated in for posterity. "
Commemorative events continue all week at Alabama State University. The activities include the dedication of a brand new state historic marker (60 years to the day) on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 3 p.m. in front of ASU's Councill Hall that commemorates Rosa Parks bravery and the notable efforts of Jo Ann Robinson, Fred Gray, E.D. Nixon, ASU family members and members of the Women's Political Council in organizing and mimeographing fliers and providing leadership, which promoted and made the Bus Boycott successful.