Rosa Parks honored, to be laid to rest in Detroit

Rosa Parks honored, to be laid to rest in Detroit

October 31, 2005
Written by J. Bennett Guess

Parks, 92, died on October 24 and is to be buried on November 2 in Detroit, the city where she had lived since 1957. Her arrest and fine for not giving up her seat led to a boycott of the Montgomery bus system led by a young Baptist pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, and precipitated a movement that helped the United States end legalized racial segregation.

At the center of the movement were figures like King and other clergy but equally important, say commentators, was the role played by churches such as Parks' own African Methodist Episcopal denomination in which she had been active since her childhood.

"She was prepared by her church and her own study to represent a better way for the American dream to be shared by all citizens," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the United Methodist Church's mission agency, the General Board of Global Ministries.

He noted that in addition to her long commitment in her church, Parks had been one of the earliest women members in the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The call to boycott the buses was made from many black pulpits in Montgomery on the Sunday following Parks' arrest and it was at a church rally the following night that African Americans agreed to continue the action until their demands were met, The New York Times stated in her obituary.

"The Montgomery bus boycott demonstrated that despite the decline of church authority, when organized and inspired by their traditional religious leaders, African Americans were capable of exercising extraordinary economic and political power," Gayraud S. Wilmore, a past-president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion, wrote in his book, "Pragmatic Spirituality."

In its statement on Parks' death, the U.S. National Council of Churches, which played an active role in the civil rights movement, said her "work lives on even as we continue to fight for justice and equality in this nation."

After her death Parks became the first woman to lie in honor at the United States Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., where tens of thousands of people filed past her body.

The body was taken to Washington from her former church in Montgomery where, on October 30, hundreds of people gathered to bid farewell. "I think I can quite honestly say that without Mrs Parks, I would probably not be standing here today as Secretary of State," said Condoleezza Rice, the first African American woman to hold the post.

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