Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Explores History and Legacy of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the Troy University Rosa Parks Library and Museum, presents an American story of bravery, honor and idealism. The exhibition, "381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story," commemorates the events of 1955 that became the genesis of the modern civil rights movement.
The exhibit will open at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, MN on January 31, 2009. "381 Days" will remain on view through April 14, 2009 before continuing on a 14-city national tour through 2009.
"Rosa Parks' extraordinary act was a profound turning point in the civil rights movement," stated Anna Cohn, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). "We are extremely proud to share this American story of 50,000 courageous people who forced a segregated bus system to open its doors to equality."
The boycott was initially a one-day protest to mark Parks' Dec. 5 court appearance and to register the weariness of those who endured daily assaults to their humanity. African Americans who rode Montgomery's buses were considered second class, defenseless against humiliation and undeserving of basic respect from drivers and white passengers.
After Parks' arrest, professors, doctors, lawyers and preachers stood alongside students, domestic workers and blue-collar laborers and refused to board the buses. A volunteer-based transportation system was developed and effectively shut down the public transit system. The boycott, which lasted 381 days, evolved into a strategic act of faith and determination that galvanized a people who refused to give up hope.
Photographs, quotes and historical text are combined in a multidimensional collage to convey the dynamism of the civil rights movement. Visitors immerse themselves in the language, imagery and emotional response to the nation's growing awareness that its founding tenet "all men are created equal" could possibly apply to the entire population. "381 Days" documents a key victory for the use of non-violent action to empower social and political change that influenced subsequent, powerful events such as the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C., the Freedom Rides, the Birmingham demonstrations and the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To get schedules of the tour, visit www.sites.si.edu.
Image Source: During the bus boycott, most African Americans walked, arranged carpools, or found other means of transportation. Photo by Don Cravens Courtesy Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Source: AARP Minnesota
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