CBC pushes for Rosa Parks to be the first woman to have federal holiday

"She sparked the beginning of a movement that changed the very fabric of our nation,” said U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are continuing efforts to make Rosa Parks Day a federal holiday to commemorate her arrest on Dec. 1, 1955. 

U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio., told theGrio, “While we are leading this, and it’s deeply personal to us, this is good for America.”

Rosa Parks thegrio.com
(Photo: State of Alabama)

“When you think about the modern civil rights movement and Rosa Parks, it changed the lives of Americans,” she added.

On Wednesday, CBC Chairman, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Reps. Beatty, Terri Sewell, D-Ala., André Carson, D-Ind., and others held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to push for the passing of the Rosa Parks Day Act.

“This Friday, Dec. 1, will be the 68th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, for simply refusing to give up her seat,” said Congresswoman Sewell, who called Parks an “American hero” who “stood up for the values that this nation holds dear.”

“She took a stand against a city steeped in segregation, and in doing so, she sparked the beginning of a movement that changed the very fabric of our nation,” she added.  

What Parks endured in 1955 was not unusual in the South. There were others who were jailed prior to Parks’ arrest, for refusing to give up their seats to white passengers, including 15-year-old Claudette Colvin.

On March 2, 1955, Colvin was detained for her refusal to relinquish her seat to a white commuter while riding on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. 

A decade earlier, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was forcibly removed from a bus in Tennessee for his refusal to sit at the back of the bus. 

Unlike in the other cases, Parks’ arrest garnered attention because of her connection to community activists and her position as a secretary for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 

Horsford, a co-sponsor of the Rosa Parks Day bill, told reporters that the civil rights activist’s arrest was “monumental for our nation and for the fight for civil rights for Black Americans and really for all of America.”

“As a community, we have seen efforts to rewrite history [and] Black history as some work to paint the horrors of slavery as some sort of work training program and to say Black benefited from slavery,” said Hosford, referring to a middle school curriculum in Florida.

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, theGrio.com
Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

“Let me be loud and clear: Black people did not benefit from slavery,” said the congressman, adding, “That is why it is important for us to reclaim our history, to promote our history because we understand that Black history is in fact U.S. history.”

Beatty, Sewell, and former Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., first introduced National Rosa Parks Day in September 2021. In January, Sewell, Beatty, and Horsford reintroduced the legislation, giving the statute a new name, the Rosa Parks Day Act.

If the legislation is enacted into law, it would mark a historical moment in U.S. history, as the very first federal holiday to recognize a woman. 

Beatty told theGrio, “I think what we’re doing today sends a strong message, and I think this makes us stand in unity with our other colleagues.”

“If you go back and look at that day [Parks’] body lay in [the U.S. Capitol Rotunda], it wasn’t just Black people who stood in line for hours, there were many of our majority colleagues who came,” she added.

Sewell told theGrio she believes her colleagues across the political aisle will ultimately back the Rosa Parks Day Act.  

“I look forward to my Republican colleagues joining us in this effort,” she said.

“I think that it’s a great way to show bipartisan support for American history to get the first federal holiday for a woman [and] for it to be a Black woman,” Sewell added. “I think it would send a powerful message to this nation.”

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