|President Obama on the Rosa Parks bus
I’m not sure how this pictures strikes you – not sure if you’re as connected to the history of this as I feel…but this is perhaps one of the most important, under reported photos of current news.
Here’s the President of the Untied States, by constitutional architecture given balanced power with the elected representatives of the entire country. Here’s a man who represents an office that is notably one of the most powerful n the world. One man in a global population of 6.355 billion people.
Here’s a black man – sitting in the seat that a black woman who in 1955 refused to give up her seat. She was arrested and though released on bail – her action mobilized the 40,000 black workers of Montgomery and brought to the front Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks simply became tired of “giving in” and her determination must be directly linked to the success that this man has had to even come close to the Office of President.
You can sense the somberness of this moment. It does underline once again how one person can have a significant impact.
Biography.com records this about that time:
“The Montgomery, Alabama city code required that all public transportation be segregated and that bus drivers had the “powers of a police officer of the city while in actual charge of any bus for the purposes of carrying out the provisions” of the code. While operating a bus, drivers were required to provide separate but equal accommodations for white and black passengers by assigning seats. This was accomplished with a line roughly in the middle of the bus separating white passengers in the front of the bus and African-American passengers in the back. When an African-American passenger boarded the bus, they had to get on at the front to pay their fare and then get off and re-board the bus at the back door. When the seats in the front of the bus filled up and more white passengers got on, the bus driver would move back the sign separating black and white passengers and, if necessary, ask black passengers give up their seat.
On December 1, 1955, after a long day at work at the Montgomery Fair department store, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed.
As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated.”