Urban mass transit and civil rights are inextricably linked in American history, and VIA Metro Transit and St. Philip's College are markign Black History Month with a display honoring Rosa Parks, who's decision not to surrender her seat in what was marked the 'White' section of a Montgomery Alabama city bus in December of 1955 jump started the civil rights movement, News Radio 1200 WOAI.
"With that act, it caused all of us to look around and think, 'if she can do that, what can I do?'" Alamo Colleges Trustee Denver McClendon told the group.
The event was attended by Barbara Collins Bowie, one of the original 'Freedom Riders' who risked their liberty and their livelihood to desegregate urban bus systems. Among the exhibitions on display is a 1966 era GM Dreamliner bus which features an exhibition on the bus and its role in the Freedom Rider movement. Every bus in VIA's fleet includes a yellow seat in honor of Rosa Parks, who would have turned 103 years old on Monday.
McClendon said the Alabama bus boycott also had another, major impact on the civil rights movement. He says African Americans in Montgomery were looking to expand on the protest, and were looking for somebody to lead it.
"There was a new minister in town that not a lot of people knew," he said. "His name was Martin Luther King, and they said 'why don't we let you do this.' And the rest, as they say, is history."
The 1966 bus, which will be on display to the public at St. Philips College through tomorrow, is now being used as a 'rolling exhibit' by VIA, focusing on the role that urban mass transit had in helping start the civil rights movement.