“Most of those who made the movement weren’t the famous; they were the faceless. They weren’t the noted; they were the nameless.”
– Julian Bond, November 1989
We’ve left the quaint streets of Birmingham and have taken yet another bus ride. Today’s adventures have brought us to Montgomery, the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Beginning at the Southern Poverty Law Center and ending at the Rosa Parks Museum, the concentrated conversation and sights put focus not on the movement, but the faces, named and unnamed, behind it.
Looking into strategic and pivotal moments within civil rights, a majority of time and emotion went into learning about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. The most memorable portion of the day’s events included the focus placed on Black women and their contributions to creating positive change.
It is important to note that the strategic stand against segregation through Montgomery Bus Boycotts were a beautifully constructed product of the Women’s Political Council (WPC).
Under the leadership of Jo Ann Robinson, Irene West, Thelma Glass, and others, the WPC is credited with being the first group to call for a large scale bus boycott. With this, we must recognize that their goal was to achieve much more than integrated bus seating. In fact, prior to 1955, these women met with bus companies to voice opinions on the lack of stops in Black neighborhoods and even the county’s failure to hire Black drivers.
As we toured aspects of the Southern Poverty Law Center and met with Dr. Bell, the director of the Rosa Parks Museum, one message seemed aparent. We cannot appreciate the change that has been created without first being sympathetic to those who lost their lives and were deeply affected by the occurances in history.
As we delve deeper into constituting active change and social justice we must acknowledge the people who came before us. Before we can acknowledge the larger groups of freedom fighters, advocates, and activists we must visualize the individuals — men, women, boys, and girls, as living and breathing humans with the ability to love, learn, and add meaningful contributions to society.
To the freedom riders who wrote their own eulogies in fear that they wouldn’t return home.
To the countless children bruised and bloodied by high pressure water hoses.
To the women killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
To the men gunned down at the hands of those full of hate.
To the unknown….
We respect you. We respect your stories. We acknowledge your existence. We thank you for what you’ve done and and your lasting contributions to society.
cover photo credit: Christian Brady