Tribute to Montgomery’s
The ten bronze roundels displayed on this wall are a tribute to the “foot soldiers” who toiled for 382 days during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and 1956. The roundels depict individuals who were involved in, and events that occurred during, this important “Struggle for Justice.”
The artwork by Winfred A. Hawkins is funded by the generous support of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. (Troy University)
Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Troy University, 252 Montgomery St., Montgomery, Ala., 36104
(32.376700 / -86.311233)
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Sherman W. White, Jr.
99th Fighter Squadron
Sherman Sr. and Nettie White lived at this address on W. Jeff Davis Ave. Both teachers, they taught their children, Sherman Jr., Willia, James and Samson, to love their country and value education. Willia, James and Samson would graduate from college. Sherman Jr. left school at the U. of Chicago to enlist as an Army Air Forces aviation cadet at Tuskegee, Alabama. At Tuskegee were trained the first African-American military aviators in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. In the third class at Tuskegee, White graduated in May 1942 as a 2nd Lieutenant, allowing him to make the payments on his parents house.
White joined the 99th Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee, the U.S. Armed Forces’ first all-black tactical air unit. Willa (WAC) and James White (QM Corps) served in the Army in World War II. Samson later was in the Army in the Korean War. Lt. Sherman White and the 99th moved to North Africa for combat. On July 2, 1943, escorting bombers over the Mediterranean, 99th P-40 fighters intercepted attacking German fighters. While protecting the bombers, the 99th had two of its P-40s shot down into the sea. White was one of the U.S. Armed Forces’ first two black aviators killed in action. (Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Historical Preservation and Promotion Foundation, Alabama Historical Association)
(32.366234 / -86.319612)
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African Methodist Episcopal
AME Zion Church
Located in the heart of one of Montgomery’s historic African American neighborhoods, Mount Zion A.M.E. Zion Church was constructed in 1899 and heavily remodeled in 1921. It served as a significant center for religious, political and social life for blacks in Montgomery throughout most of the twentieth century.
The seeds of protest were growing in Montgomery long before the arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955, and the bus boycott. Rev. Solomon Seay, pastor of Mt. Zion from 1948-52, led the black community in early protests as president of the Negro Civic and Improvement League.
On December 5, 1955, the first full day of the bus boycott, Mount Zion Pastor Rev. L. Roy Bennett, who was also president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, hosted a meeting of local community leaders. These individuals met in the Mount Zion Church tower, founded and organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). At this meeting, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected president and Rev. Bennett was elected vice president. Rev. Bennett also served on the transportation committee arranging rides for people during the boycott. The MIA’s formation was crucial to the organization and implementation of civil rights protests in Montgomery. Over the next year, the MIA organized carpools and held weekly mass meetings to keep the black community mobilized. Leaders negotiated with Montgomery city officials and launched legal challenges to the city’s bus segregation ordinance. The MIA also financially supported the boycott, raising money at meetings and soliciting support from northern and southern civil rights organizations.
Two later pastors of Mt. Zion, Rev. Simmie Walter Shultz and Rev. James T. Hemphill, also served as president of the Black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. In 1971, Mt. Zion’s Rev. Percy L. Smith Jr. became the first black man to run for mayor of Montgomery.
Additionally, the church scenes in the movie “The Long Walk Home” were filmed in this building. In 1965, participants in the Selma to Montgomery Voter’s Rights March received refreshments and used the restrooms at Mount Zion.
In 1990, the congregation moved to a new sanctuary on West Jeff Davis Avenue.
The original Mount Zion AME Zion Church building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. (Alabama Historical Commission)
(32.368399 / -86.320589)
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On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks left work and boarded a downtown bus. Her destination was home, Cleveland Court Apartment No. 634. She didn’t make it home that day as she was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white man. This single act of defiance, violating the segregation laws of that time, led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and launched Rosa Parks into the national spotlight. She later became a distinct symbol as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
The apartment complex was built in 1941 and is managed by the Montgomery Housing Authority. Rosa and Raymond Parks resided in apartment No. 634 until 1957. They moved to Detroit, Michigan, after the Montgomery bus boycott ended. The Cleveland Court Apartment building 620-638 was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 9, 2001.
(32.363397 / -86.317112)
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Two Sides of the Same Historic Marker
Montgomery Bus Boycott
At the bus stop on this site on December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to boarding whites. This brought about her arrest, conviction and fine. The Boycott began December 5, the day after Parks’ trial, as a protest by African-Americans for unequal treatment they received on the bus line. Refusing to ride the buses, they maintained the Boycott until the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the integration of public transportation one year later. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Boycott, the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement. (Alabama Historical Association)
In 1938, young country singer Hank Williams won a contest on the stage of the Empire Theatre. Born in Butler County, south of Montgomery, on September 17, 1923, Williams learned to play the guitar and sing on the streets of Georgiana. Writing songs and performing, he made his way to Nashville, where in 1949 his “Lovesick Blues” stopped the show at the Grand Ole Opry. Other acclaimed compositions include “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Jambalaya,” and “Kaw-Liga.” Williams died on January 1, 1953, and is buried in Montgomery’s Oakwood Annex Cemetery. (Alabama Historical Association)
(32.376546 / -86.311238)
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