Today, 59 years ago Rosa Parks was arrested for keeping her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her courage and her action sparked an enduring and effective 381-day protest, one of the longest lasting in American history. She lit the fire of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement which reformed housing, transportation, public accommodations, voting rights, education, and nearly every aspect of American life.
It was during the Montgomery Bus Boycott that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then a young preacher and the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, emerged at the forefront of the movement for civil rights and social justice in America. Today the work that Rosa Parks began and Dr. King directed is studied by non-violent activists all over the world, who use it to discover the ways and the means they can use to challenge injustice in every corner of the globe.
We are fortunate that the example of Rosa Parks and Dr. King are so accessible to us as Americans. They are no longer with us, but the ideas they stood for define a great legacy and the work they have left for us to do still remains. I challenge all Americans in the next year to read the words of Rosa Parks, to study the tactics and the discipline of non-violent resistance, and dig deeply into the comprehensive teaching of Martin Luther King Jr. What they did and how they did it can inform the activism of today and help push our nation forward into the next phase of our destiny until we reach the day when this nation becomes a truly multi-racial democracy that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.