A wooden box contains the statue of Rosa Parks that will be unveiled in Statuary Hall Wednesday before President Obama, members of Congress and many others. They will remember a woman who would have turned 100 years old this year, the woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man and started a civil rights movement.
“The first meeting was at my church. I was about eight years old,” says Viola Bradford, a former D.C. schoolteacher who grew up in Montgomery, Ala. In 1955, Bradford’s cousin, E.D. Nixon, was president of the NAACP. Rosa Parks was his secretary.
“That’s who Rosa Parks called to get her out of jail,” she says.
Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. When the black community learned of the arrest, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. organized a protest.
“There were so many people. They were out on the street and on the sidewalk at Holt Street Baptist Church, 903 South Holt Street.”
For over a year the blacks boycotted the city buses over policies where blacks had to sit in the back and give up their seats to whites.
Blacks carpooled or walked to work. Like Parks, they’d had enough.
“My mother was one of those maids that took the bus that Rosa Parks took,” says Bradford.
Bradford’s mother got a ride from the woman she worked for.
“Couldn’t tell her husband, nobody. But she would stop, sneak and get my mother and take my mother to work… to her house to clean and cook for her,” says Bradford.
That early experience, Bradford says, turned her into a civil rights activist who admired Parks.
“[She was] a humble, sweet, meek woman, but very determined and she knew what she was doing.”
Bradford says she will soon visit Parks’ statue to see the likeness of the woman from her hometown who changed history.