Rosa Parks, often referred to as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white male. Her subsequent arrest at the intersection of Montgomery and Lee streets in downtown Montgomery led to the 382-day boycott of Montgomery buses by African Americans.
Today, Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum stands on the spot of Mrs. Parks’ arrest. Located on the University’s Montgomery Campus, the museum opened on Dec. 1, 2000, with the mission of preserving and interpreting the story and lasting legacy of Mrs. Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott for future generations. Dr. Felicia Bell serves as the museum’s director.
Constructed on the site of the former Empire Theater, the museum has become a major landmark in the revitalization of downtown Montgomery. It features a permanent exhibit chronicling Rosa Parks’ arrest and the subsequent bus boycott, a children’s wing exhibit called the “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” an art gallery, special collection, an auditorium, and a conference room.
The permanent interpretive exhibit features six distinct areas that tell the story of Rosa Parks’ arrest and the accomplishments of the men and women involved in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The tour includes a cinematic reenactment of Mrs. Parks’ famous arrest and personal testimonials from many individuals who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Artifacts include a restored 1955 station wagon, a replica of the public bus on which Mrs. Parks was sitting on the day of her arrest, and original historic documents of that era.
In addition, visitors can view a life-sized bronze sculpture of Mrs. Parks seated on a bus bench in the museum’s atrium. Commissioned by Troy University and created by sculptor Erik Blome of Chicago, Ill., the work has been a popular attraction for visitors since the museum opened in 2000.
The children’s wing features a 20-minute virtual trip through time known as the “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine.” It is a replica of the Cleveland Avenue bus where Mrs. Parks was arrested. Using special lighting, seven-projector video, audio, and fog effects, the “Time Machine” takes visitors back in time covering historical events from the Jim Crow Era to the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Visitors observe scenes of segregation as well as social and legal challenges made by individuals like Harriet Tubman, Dred Scott, and Homer Plessy. In addition, visitors learn about the legal hurdles of discrimination and segregation that helped reshape the social and political culture of the 20th century.