Anniversary of Bus Boycott Shifts Focus

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With the death of Rosa Parks, the 50th anniversary of her arrest and the historic bus boycott it sparked will focus on the protest's lesser-known foot soldiers.

While Parks was remembered for helping start the modern civil rights movement by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man on Dec. 1, 1955, it took some 40,000 blacks in Montgomery to back her with their own defiance.

Led by the Montgomery Improvement Association and its president, the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr., they used car pools and church vehicles during a yearlong boycott of the city's segregated buses. The boycott ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the segregation was unconstitutional.

``Before (Parks) passed we decided this would be an opportunity to honor any and everybody, known and unknown,'' said Robert White, chairman of the anniversary committee. ``We are going to pay more attention to unsung heroes and average participants of the boycott.''

The 50th anniversary will acknowledge the contributions of people like Mary Louis Smith, Claudette Colvin and E.D. Nixon who are vital to the history of the protest, White said.

Smith and Colvin also were arrested for refusing to give up their bus seat and were among five black women whose federal court suit, known as Browder vs. Gayle, led to the Supreme Court ruling. Nixon was a prominent activist who was instrumental in organizing the boycott.

A week of anniversary events kicks off Thursday when youths of different races make an eight-block march to the Capitol beginning at the downtown spot where Parks was arrested - now the site of the Rosa Parks Museum.

They will be invited to offer petitions of their own dreams to public officials at the Capitol. A Webcast of the walk will include interactive forums for children around the world, according to organizers.

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