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Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) spoke on the House Floor to observe the 66th anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks took a bold stand against racial discrimination, refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her refusal sparked a year-long, city-wide boycott of the Montgomery bus system, leading to the eventual desegregation of public buses by the Supreme Court. Rep. Sewell is an original cosponsor of the Rosa Parks Day Act, a bill that would make December 1st a federal holiday in her honor.

A video recording of Rep. Sewell’s remarks can be viewed and downloaded here. Her remarks are included below.

Rep. Sewell: Mister Speaker, I rise today to honor an American pioneer and one of the greatest heroines of our time, Mrs. Rosa Parks, on the 66th anniversary of her arrest in Montgomery, Alabama.

Today, 66 years ago, Rosa Parks took a bold stand against racial discrimination by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat did more than simply desegregate the bus systems of Montgomery. Her dignified courage inspired a movement that changed our nation. 

Rosa Parks’ quiet refusal to surrender her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, sparked a city-wide boycott of the Montgomery bus system that lasted one whole year and broke the very will of a city heavily steeped in segregation.

Biographer Douglas Brinkley recounted the powerful moment in his biography of Rosa Parks. He writes:

“Are you going to stand up?" the driver demanded. Rosa Parks looked straight at him and said: "No." Flustered, and not quite sure what to do, the bus driver retorted, "Well, I'm going to have you arrested." And Rosa Parks sat next to the window and quietly said, "You may do that."

Her soft yet forceful response led to an arrest, a $10 dollar fine, and the beginning of the most important demonstration in American history.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott stands as a powerful testament of the will of a disenfranchised people to work collectively to achieve extraordinary social change.

Today, while we commemorate the progress that has been made, we must also recommit ourselves to the struggle and the fight for equal justice. We must remain vigilant in the struggle for voting rights, criminal justice reform, and economic equity.

Foot Soldiers like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and Attorney Fred Gray, whose lifelong work in the fight for justice and equality still resonate today, remind us that we cannot take for granted the battles endured by those before us, nor can we neglect our own responsibilities to ensure liberty and justice.

As benefactors of the sacrifices of these brave men and women, we must be willing to answer the modern day call and to dare to be trailblazers on our own.

Rosa Parks’ quiet refusal to surrender her seat on December 1, 1955, inspired generations of others to continue her legacy by standing up for the values that our democracy holds dear.

And because of her contributions, I am proud to join Congressman Jim Cooper and CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty in introducing the Rosa Parks Day Act which would designate today, December 1st, as a new federal holiday in her honor. This bill will ensure that her brave sacrifice lives on in American history and serves as a reminder to continue to protect the gains that we have made over 60 years ago while tackling the challenges that plague this nation today.

While we honor the guardian of the Montgomery Bus Boycott today, we must also acknowledge her sacrifices and do our own responsibility as a call to action.

Though Jim Crow is no more, there are modern day challenges that require the time and talents of each of us.

We must remain vigilant in seeking justice for the countless Black Americans that fall victim to police brutality. We must remain vigilant in our commitment to continuing the fight to protect the sacred right to vote.

We owe Rosa Parks and so many others nothing less!

Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.