Washington -- In ceremonies
from Montgomery, Alabama, to the rotunda of the nation’s
Capitol, Americans continue to honor the life of Rosa Parks,
whose 1955 refusal to relinquish her seat on a segregated
Montgomery bus helped spark the U.S. civil rights movement.
Rosa Parks at ceremony where she received the Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 28, 1999. (© AP/WWP)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Montgomery
native, spoke at an October 30 memorial ceremony before
an overflow crowd at the city’s St. Paul AME [African
Methodist Episcopal] church, to which Parks belonged at
the time of her arrest. "Without Mrs. Parks,"
the secretary said, "I would not be standing here today
as Secretary of State."
"Not only did she set off a revolution
of freedom and a second round of emancipation here in the
United States, but she is also revered around the world,"
The woman whom many have called the mother
of the U.S. civil rights movement died of natural causes
on October 24 at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.
(See related article.)
Others speaking at the Montgomery service
included the Rev. Joseph Lowry, co-founder with Martin Luther
King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
and Alabama Governor Bob Riley, who called Parks one of
the people God puts "in different parts of history
so great things can happen."
Also addressing the gathered mourners was
the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who declared of Parks: "She
was not arrested for sewing. She was a freedom fighter."
Meanwhile, as mourners in Washington queued
up for the chance to pay their respects, Parks’ remains
were flown to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood
Marshall Airport, recently renamed for the late Supreme
Court justice and head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education
Accompanied by motorcade, a vintage 1957
bus drove Parks across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge,
named for the famed slavery abolitionist leader, to the
U.S. Capitol. There, eight military pallbearers carried
her casket inside to lie in honor as the Morgan State University
choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, favored by the
Union Army during the 1861-1865 Civil War that resulted
in the emancipation of African-American slaves.
Parks is the first woman and the second
African-American to be honored by lying in the rotunda of
the U.S. Capitol building. President Bush ordered all United
States flags on public and military facilities to be flown
at half-staff on the day of Parks’ interment. (See
President Bush, first lady Laura Bush and
members of Congress laid wreaths at Parks' casket during
a short ceremony featuring remarks by the chaplains of the
House of Representatives and the Senate.
Retired Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, the
first African-American named chaplain of the U.S. Senate,
said that Parks ignited a movement that “aroused our
national conscience" and demonstrated the "power
of fateful, small acts."
"By sitting down, this mother of the
civil rights movement enabled millions to stand up in a
better world," said Black.
The senior Republican and Democratic members
of the House of Representatives, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, issued a joint statement:
"The Capitol serves as a beacon of American liberty,
freedom and democracy, and Rosa Parks served as the mother
of the America we grew to be."
Among the other prominent Americans offering
tributes were National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People Chairman Julian Bond, Senator Sam Brownback
of Kansas, and Michigan Representative John Conyers Jr.,
in whose Detroit office Parks worked beginning in 1965.
Capitol Police estimated that more than
30,000 Americans filed through the Capitol rotunda and past
Parks' casket to pay their respects. A service at the Metropolitan
African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Washington
was scheduled for the afternoon of October 31.
Following that service, Parks’ remains
will be flown to Detroit for a November 2 funeral and burial.
For additional information, see African-American
Michael Jay Friedman
Washington File Staff Writer