New historical marker honors Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneers

New historical marker honors Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneers

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The City of Montgomery and the entire nation remembered a pivotal moment in American history during the 60th anniversary commemoration of Rosa Parks' arrest.

The subsequent bus boycott sparked a national movement for civil rights.

A number of government and community leaders and even a former first lady helped mark the anniversary in Downtown Montgomery Tuesday.

After a number of events during the day, the celebration concluded with the unveiling of a new historical marker outside of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum on Montgomery Street, where she was taken into custody.

The double-sided marker pays tribute to Parks and the other major civil rights cases that changed the landscape of the nation and world in their quest for equality and justice.

"It emphasizes Mrs. Parks and it also talks about all of the other persons and all of the other lawsuits that were filed and won in Central Alabama for the protection of Civil Rights. So it's very historical. I'm glad it's here," said Fred Gray Sr., a civil rights attorney who defended Rosa Parks.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange discussed the progress Rosa Parks helped create and her bravery.

"In a soft voice, she said no. But that no resounded around the world to a yes for a better society and a better tomorrow," he said. "We today are a different city that we were in 1955. We have built bridges, strong bridges but we still have bridges to build. It's our job collectively, one another united, to build those bridges together."

A moment of silence was held during the service as church bells rang around the city.

"We pause as the bells toll for sixty seconds representing 60 years but we have not forgotten," said Tonea Stewart, dean of Alabama State University's College of Visual and Performing Arts. "We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Justice started right here in Montgomery, Alabama."

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean asked local officials in attendance at the ceremony to come up on the stage, pointing out the racially diverse group of leaders.

"People like Rosa Parks, people like Fred Gray and others, they fought that battle so that we could be where we are tonight, today in 2015 so we don't want you to take it lightly," he said.

Fred Gray stressed the importance of teaching younger generations about the legacy of civil rights pioneers, a message echoed by other officials.

"It's important to tell the story to our young people because that story needs to be told over and over so they will learn to appreciate the sacrifice that was made sixty years ago," Mayor Strange said.

Loyd Howard, chairman of the Montgomery Improvement Association Foundation said one side of the marker used to include information about Hank Williams, but due to the historical significance behind Rosa Parks' efforts and its location in front of the museum bearing her name, many thought both side should be dedicated to her and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Officials indicated that another marker for Williams will be erected in the future.

"I think the young people will look at the marker and understand how important it is and it's up to our generation to make sure young people understand the importance of the marker and the significance of Rosa Parks," Howard added.

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