Civil rights activist Rosa Parks was honored Thursday by city and transit officials with a plaque inside Muni bus number 8955.
Thursday marked the 64th anniversary of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that began Dec. 5, 1955. The protest brought national attention to racial segregation on public buses when black passengers were restricted to seats at the back of the bus and were expected to give up seats at any point for white riders.
On Dec. 1 of that year, Parks peacefully refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger and was subsequently arrested for her defiance. In the wake of her arrest, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a meeting at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, where he was pastor.
It was King’s speech that day that inspired the bus boycott as a way to fight back against the injustice. Despite intense retaliation and harassment against the black community, the Montgomery bus boycott lasted for more than a year.
The plaque inside the bus reads:
“In memory of Rosa Parks. Her defiance of segregation laws on an Alabama bus changed public transportation and American society.”
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton has been pushing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to recognize Parks since early February when a resident and Muni rider wrote to him with a request to set aside a permanent seat in her honor.
The letter listed several cities, including Dallas and Milwaukie, that honor Parks.
“Today, we are here to commemorate the legacy and memory of Ms. Rosa Parks and highlight how her civil rights fight led us to place and time where no matter what color of your skin, you can sit anywhere on a public bus.”
During Women’s History Month in March, the SFMTA displayed posters depicting Parks and recognized her historic role in the Montgomery bus boycott.
“This bus will forever have a plaque highlighting Rosa Parks (and what) she has done to get us here today in terms of leading to desegregation of the buses. Not only In Montgomery, Alabama, but across this country.”
SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said another plaque will be installed later this year on a light rail vehicle that serves the T-Third.
Kato said the transit agency plans to add more plaques honoring Parks on Muni’s fleet of buses and trains during Black History Month in February.
Bus number 8955 serves constituents in Walton’s district on the 19-Polk Muni line, a route that is part of the SFMTA’s Muni Equity Strategy to improve service in neighborhoods with a high concentration of low-income residents and people of color.
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]