“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived…” – Day 3

Deb Smith
Social/Racial Justice Coordinator
YWCA Hanover

Montgomery, Alabama

‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’ -Maya Angelou

As I continue this journey with Classrooms Without Borders, I am reminded of all the good people in the world, the people we are meeting on the trip, and my traveling companions. We must continue this education for ourselves, our community, and our children.

Our day started with the story of Rosa Parks, the woman who sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. Who was Rosa Parks? She has been described as a timid, quiet woman, but there is more to Rosa Parks. Mrs. Parks joined the Montgomery NAACP in 1943. In her capacity as secretary, she would organize “The Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor.” Six white men had gang-raped Mrs. Taylor, and Parks would attempt to seek justice, which would never come for Mrs. Taylor. Parks continued her anti-rape work to benefit black women who had been victims of sexual assault.

As we went through the Rosa Parks Museum, we entered a room with the names of many influential Civil Rights leaders, many known and unknown to the public. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We then entered a recreation of Mrs. Park’s arrest on the Montgomery bus. Was she doing something illegal? Where she was sitting was not illegal, but refusing the directive by the bus driver to move, was illegal. Within three days, a boycott was organized by the Montgomery Improvement Association. How did they accomplish this in a time with no social media? The Civil Rights Movement was not the work of one or two people, but made possible by so many individuals, known and unknown.

On the evening of December 5, 1955, in the Holt Street Baptist Church, 5,000 of Montgomery’s black citizens gathered to hear the newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, speak. His mission was to stir people up but somehow keep control. “there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression.”-Dr. King

It was decided at this meeting that a boycott would be enacted. In addition, Jo Ann Robinson and the Women’s Political Council would print and distribute flyers informing citizens of the boycott. As a result, black citizens boycotted the bus system in Montgomery for thirteen months, which caused the bus system to lose quite a bit of money. The MIA organized a carpool system to replace the bus system. to get to work. The boycott led to the following; June 5, 1956 federal court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional, and in the November 1956 Supreme Court decision declaring Montgomery’s segregation laws on buses were unconstitutional. We should also pay homage to the four women arrested before Rosa Parks; Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin, and Mary Louise Smith.

Our afternoon started with a fantastic artist and passionate Civil Rights advocate. Have you ever heard of Dr. J. Marion Sims, ‘the father of modern gynecology?’ Unfortunately, the term doctor is a misnomer in the case of Sims. He pioneered tools and surgical techniques related to women’s reproductive health. This was achieved using enslaved black women that he would operate and experiment on without anesthesia. The artist pays homage to three women; Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy. All three women developed a painful medical condition after childbirth that caused them to lose control of their bladders and bowels. The plantation owners took them to Sims for a cure because these women were of no use in their condition. Sims was unable to cure them, and these women endured terrible agony. Michelle Bowder has created a beautiful work of art to memorialize these women. Our day was filled with so many sites, including the First Baptist Church, Dexter Avenue Church and Parsonage, a visit with Phillip Ensler, Southern Poverty Law Center, Freedom Rides Museum, State Capitol grounds.  We are walking the path of a painful history, but a history that must be faced and taught. Day 3, and my life is changing. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Thank you!

Related Materials and Events

Scroll to Top