On Dec. 1, 1955, the act of one courageous woman sparked a movement that brought change not only to the city of Montgomery, Alabama but throughout the United States.
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.
Constructed on the site of the former Empire Theater, the Museum has become a major landmark in the revitalization of downtown Montgomery and features a permanent exhibit chronicling Rosa Parks’ arrest and the subsequent bus boycott, a children’s wing called the “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” an exhibit hall, archives, an auditorium, a gift shop and a conference room.
Visitors enter the museum through the Charles Cahn Baum and Family Atrium, dedicated April 22, 2017, which is home to an information desk, a bust and display of various illustrations of Mrs. Parks, and a life-size bronze sculpture of Mrs. Parks seated on a bus bench created for the Museum by renowned sculptor Erik Blome of Chicago.
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. 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.
Known as the “Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” the children’s wing features a 20-minute virtual trip through time on 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 through the Jim Crow Era up to the modern day Civil Rights movement.
In addition, the Museum regularly hosts traveling exhibits in its gallery, which is free to visitors during normal business hours. The traveling exhibits along with special programming such as a summer day camp for children, community forums and an annual Juneteenth celebration offer thought-provoking links between past and present human rights issues.