At the June 15 Juneteenth celebration in North Minneapolis, the Juneteenth Players re-enacted December 1, 1955 when Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person on the driver’s orders. When he threatened to arrest her, she said, “You may do that,” setting in motion the bus boycott and protests that eventually ended bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama.
At the Juneteenth re-enactment, the acting company videotaped the scene inside the bus, while recording a reader outside, reading from the book Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Without narration, the crowd outside saw the practice of black people paying to ride, then having to get off the bus to go to the back door to board the “colored” section. Drivers in those days could expand the white section and make those already sitting inthe colored section move farther back or stand. That’s what happened that day when Mrs. Parks said no.
After Parks’ arrest, black riders streamed off the vintage bus passing out hand-made flyers saying “Walk on Monday” and “Support Mrs. Parks.” The actual Montgomery bus boycott lasted 381 days, at great personal expense to many who participated. It was a seminal event in the national civil rights movement and focused national attention on the young minister, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Around 3:30, the afternoon’s soaking storm let loose and the cast took refuge in the bus, hoping it would let up soon. Director Lee Henry Jordan (pictured above, standing, in the yellow shirt) talked about another re-enactment they would like to do, about slave trading, which would use the costume hanging on the dress form.
Debra Davis Moody played the part of Rosa.
Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.