Rosa Parks Act Seeks To Honor The Late Civil Rights Activist With A Federal Holiday
Rosa Parks Day would mark the first federal holiday to honor a Black woman, or any woman, period, in American history.
The Rosa Parks Day Act, a bill that would make Dec. 1, the date Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man, a federal holiday, has obtained the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the bill was the first introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Selma, Alabama. Parks’ arrest began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. If approved, Rosa Parks Day would mark the first federal holiday to honor a Black woman, or any woman, period, in American history.
Rosa Parks Day is already celebrated in Montgomery, Alabama, on Dec. 1, as well as in Ohio, Oregon, and Texas. California, which first celebrated Rosa Parks Day, chose Feb. 4, the date of Parks’ birthday, to commemorate the late civil rights activist. According to CNN, at a news conference on Nov. 29, Sewell made her case for why Parks should be honored with a federal holiday, saying, “This is not just about Black history. It’s about American history.”
Sewell continued, “I know that all of us, this whole nation, has benefited from the courage and bravery of this one woman.”
Sewell credited Parks with sparking a fight that led to Black people securing rights long denied.
“By simply refusing to give up her seat, Rosa Parks stood up for the values that this nation holds dear. With her quiet, dignified courage, she took a stand against a city steeped in segregation, and in doing so, she sparked the beginning of a movement that changed the very fabric of our nation,” Sewell said.
Echoing Sewell’s remarks was Rep. Joyce Beatty, who told the assembled reporters that Parks’ actions deserved to be given the space befitting a national hero that she was, saying, “Rosa Parks is a martyr for equality, an icon to all, a crusader for justice. And truly, she was a phenomenal Black woman whose legacy should be revered as a hero in American history books and well beyond our borders,” Beatty explained. “It is past time to give Rosa Parks the national recognition she deserves.”
According to CNN, Sewell hopes the bill receives the bipartisan support she believes it deserves.
Steven Horsford, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, contextualized the bill’s importance within the push for the erasure of Black history, saying that there is a “rise in efforts to erase and rewrite history – Black history.”
Horsford closed his remarks by saying, “That is why it’s important for us to reclaim our history, to honor our history, to promote our history.”
Denise Pendleton, a volunteer coordinator for the Texas African American Museum in Tyler and the secretary of the Texas African American Advisory Board believes that Parks’ enduring instruction is that everyday people are change agents for societal issues.
“I think taking a page from that history and looking at women of color who are brave enough to stand up and do what needs to be done,” Pendleton told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “If we band together, we can make a lot of changes and it doesn’t have to be the president of this or the official elected officer. Every day people make changes.”