On Feb. 4, The Henry Ford is celebrating what would have been Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday with a National Day of Courage. Mrs. Parks wasn’t looking to start a movement when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man on Dec. 1, 1955, but instead was acting upon a courageous response to her instincts. Mrs. Parks later said of that day, “When I made that decision, I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”
In 2001 The Henry Ford became the home to Montgomery, Ala., bus No. 2857, the very bus that Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat on. The bus has become a symbol for courage and strength as many believe Mrs. Parks’ actions that day sparked the American Civil Rights Movement.
Starting the National Day of Courage off is American Civil Rights activist and leader Julian Bond. In the 1960s Mr. Bond founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and would later go on to serve as chairman of the NAACP. Joining him during the day are contributing Newsweek editor Eleanor Clift, Rosa Parks biographers Jeanne Theoharis and Douglas Brinkley, and author and Wayne State University Assistant Professor Danielle McGuire.
Today we’re excited to announce that in addition to a day packed with activities, The Henry Ford will be dedicating the new Rosa Parks Forever stamp from the United States Postal Service.
The new stamp, showcasing a portrait of Mrs. Parks, will be available for purchase and cancellation at Henry Ford Museum all day.
On site with us on Feb. 4 will be USA Network’s “Characters Unite” public service campaign. Visitors can learn more about the campaign and create a special souvenir.
Admission to Henry Ford Museum, from 9:30 a.m .to 9:30 p.m., is free that day thanks to Target and another installment of their Target Family Days.
Our celebration of Mrs. Parks and her courage isn’t just here in the museum. No matter where you are you can participate digitally as we share stories of hope and inspiration.
Online we’re asking individuals to post their messages of courage by sharing a digital Facebook badge. We even have a plain badge that you can download and write your own message on. If you do, make sure to take a picture of yourself wearing it and tag us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #dayofcourage.
Thanks to our partners at Detroit Public Television, a live stream of the day’s events will be available to watch online. You can find that link here. After the National Day of Courage, make sure to visit DPTV’s website for additional interviews and highlights.
While the special activities for the National Day of Courage happen for just one day, we’ll be sharing some of our significant Civil Rights artifacts all throughout the month of February. For the latest information on the National Day of Courage, make sure to visit our event page and website.
When guests see the Rosa Parks bus on display inside Henry Ford Museum, they are often in awe. Speechless. Moved, even.
And you don't have to merely look at this magnificent milestone in American history. When you visit Henry Ford Museum, you can actually climb aboard, walk the narrow aisle of the bus - and even sit in the very seat that Rosa Parks occupied on December 1, 1955.
But during that visit, two questions are typically asked: "Is it THE bus?" and "How did The Henry Ford get it?"
The answer to the first question: Yes, it is.
How the bus was acquired is a more modern story. In September 2001, an article in the Wall Street Journal announced that the Rosa Parks bus would be available in an Internet auction in October. Once we had confirmed the answer to the question posed above, we entered the online auction and came out the highest bidder.
After nearly five months of restoration, with support from the Save America's Treasures grant program, the Rosa Parks bus made its return to the floor of Henry Ford Museum on February 1, 2002. (With Liberty And Justice For All, the exhibition where the bus currently is displayed, had not yet been constructed.)
Paint chips from the unrestored bus, consultation with other experts, vintage postcards and eyewitness accounts from a museum employee who lived in Montgomery during the bus boycott allowed the museum to recreate the paint colors exactly.
Restoration efforts were performed on the bus down to the tiniest detail. For example: On the day Mrs. Parks boarded it, the bus was already seven years old and ran daily on the streets of Montgomery. Therefore, for authenticity, conservation experts applied recreated Alabama red dirt in the wheel wells, and tire treads and period advertising was recreated for the interior and exterior of the bus.
With all of these elements together and pondering what happened on December 1, 1955, exploring this historic artifact creates a powerful connection for many.