President Obama officially proclaimed Feb. 4 the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Rosa Parks and said, "our Nation was forever transformed when an African-American seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger...her defiance spurred a movement that advanced our journey toward justice and equality for all."
Parks' Dec. 1, 1955 arrest sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted 381 days and captured world attention. The boycott was led by 26-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said Parks was anchored to that bus seat "by the accumulated indignities of days gone by, and the countless aspirations of generations yet unborn."
The National Archives is honoring the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" Rosa Parks, and African American History Month, with a free exhibit of documents and programs throughout February.
Here's a list of these National Archives events:
- Display honoring the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement"
Feb. 1-28, East Rotunda Gallery
The exhibit includes the law which authorized awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, America's highest civilian honor, to Rosa Parks, and a photograph of her and President Clinton at the 1999 award ceremony.
President Clinton noted the "ripples of impact she had on millions of people who lived in the United States." On that Montgomery bus, she represented America's history "full of weary years – our sweet land of liberty bearing only bitter fruit and silent tears," the President said.
Among the National Archives' Rosa Parks documents are her fingerprint chart and the arrest records for "refusing to obey orders of bus driver" and move to a seat reserved for "the race to which she belonged." The documents were presented as evidence in the federal court case Browder v. Gayle, which challenged the constitutionality of laws mandating racial segregation on public buses of Montgomery.
- A Tribute to Rosa Parks on her 100th Birthday
Monday, Feb. 4, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
William S. Pretzer, Senior Curator for History at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, will introduce the documentary "Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks" (40 minutes).
- Introduction to African American Genealogy at the National Archives
Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 11 A.M., William McGowan Theater
Damani Davis, archivist, will discuss federal records of interest for African-American genealogy.
- "Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery"
Wednesday, Feb. 6, at noon, William McGowan Theater
History professor and author Heather Andrea Williams uses slave narratives, letters, interviews, and diaries to describe the devastation when people were sold away from their families. Williams traces those who were separated, chronicles their search, and documents the rare experiences of reunion or the tragedy of loss. She will sign her book, "Help Me to Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery" (University of North Carolina Press).
- The Emancipation Proclamation in Art and Documents
Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7 P.M., William G. McGowan Theater
Eleanor Jones Harvey, chief curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), and Michael Hussey, National Archives historian, will use images from the exhibit "The Civil War and American Art" at SAAM to explore connections between these artworks and records from the National Archives. Rex M. Ellis, associate director for curatorial affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will moderate a panel that includes Ira Berlin, professor of history at University of Maryland.
There's no better way to observe African American History Month than to honor the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued Jan. 1, 1863, and the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks, "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement".
For more info: National Archives, www.archives.gov, on the National Mall, Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 1-866-272-6272. Calendar of Events, www.archives.gov/calendar, or 202-357-5000. Online Educational Resource: Teaching With Documents: An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks, www.archives.gov/education/lessons/rosa-parks.