Hail and Farewell to Rosa Parks: 1913-2005

By Chappell, Kevin | Ebony, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Hail and Farewell to Rosa Parks: 1913-2005


Chappell, Kevin, Ebony


SINGERS, politicians, preachers, civil rights leaders and just plain folks gathered in Detroit to pay their last respects to a woman who became an icon for equality after taking a courageous stand that would forever change America.

More than 4,000 mourners gathered at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit to say goodbye and thank you to Rosa Parks, who died in Detroit last October at age 92.

Some 50 years after she sparked the Civil Rights Movement in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a White man, her actions continue to captivate the nation and the world.

The funeral, which stretched well past its three-hour scheduled time, followed a week of remembrances during which Parks' coffin was brought from Detroit to Montgomery to Washington, D.C., where she became the first woman, and the second Black to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Former President Bill Clinton, who presented Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, was the first speaker at the funeral. He said Parks' "single simple act of dignity and courage struck a lethal blow to the foundations of legal bigotry ... Let us not forget [Rosa's] simple act, in a lifetime of grace and dignity. She made us see, and agree, that everyone should be free."

The Rev. Al Sharpton challenged Blacks to make the country better, like Rosa Parks did all her life. "Make a Rosa resolution ...," he said. "She is not in history because she made some movie or sang some song. Rosa Parks is in history because she made this nation deal with changing its laws and policies unlike anyone else."

Outside the church, the line to get one of the 2,000 seats available to the public extended for blocks. Those in the audience held hands and sang the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" as family members filed past her casket before it was closed.

"The woman we honor today held no public office, she wasn't a wealthy woman, didn't appear in the society pages," U. …

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