Rosa Parks Honored By Congress

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Capitol Hill (CNS) – Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in December of 1955, launching the US Civil Rights movement in earnest, received the highest honor Congress can bestow in a ceremony Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda.

Congressman J. C. Watts (R-OK) conferred on Mrs. Parks the Congressional Gold Medal Tuesday afternoon. Many Members of Congress, including many attendees from the federal and judicial branches as well as President Clinton attended the ceremony for the woman called the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement."

Parks, 86, a native of Alabama who now resides in Detroit, encouraged minorities to continue to work to end racism, "until all people have equal rights."

"Rosa Parks is truly an American treasure. She knew that her quiet, dignified and simple demand for a seat on the bus would take away her freedom to earn a living and would place her life in grave danger," said Watts. "But she did what she knew she had to do, and because she did, we live in a better America, a better world for us and for our children."

Watts then looked towards the top of the Rotunda and said, "We should use this great dome as your crown."

The president also honored the civil rights pioneer by marking the continuing force of her action. Mrs. Parks' defiance and subsequent arrest for not giving up her seat to a male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus on December 1, 1955 carried with it "ripples of impact" said President Clinton. "We must never forget about the power of ordinary people."

"People no longer tolerate second class citizenship." Said Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI). "She will forever be remembered as the woman who gave birth to the civil rights struggle."

After the arrest of Rosa Parks, blacks and other sympathizers from Montgomery organized a boycott of the city bus line that lasted 381 days. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was named spokesman for the boycott, which resulted in sit-ins and protests across the country that began a movement that would change the nation.

Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) said, "You would have never heard of Martin Luther King if it hadn't been for Rosa Parks." Gephardt commended Mrs. Parks for being a "living profile in courage."

Representative Julia Carson (D-IN) called Parks the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement." Carson and Abraham were instrumental in bringing the resolution for Parks before Congress.

The ceremony for Parks comes nine months after fellow civil rights activist Nelson Mandela was granted the same honor.