MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — On the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Hillary Clinton and a list of elected and civil rights leaders gathered at the church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped launch a movement.
The boycott was ignited by the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her sear on a bus. The tribute is also emphasizing the role that lawyers played in the movement.
The National Bar Association organized the event at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the spokesperson for the boycotts in 1955.
The list of speakers included National Bar Association President Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave the benediction.
Related – Montgomery Bus Boycott 60th Anniversary photos
Sixty years later, former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton shared her take on the struggle to end segregation.
“It took the courage of so many and among the most courageous were the lawyers who took on the challenges in the courts and in the streets,” said Clinton.
One speaker remarked that police who arrested Rosa Parks thought they were just escorting her to jail, but they were in fact enabling the 5 foot 3 Sunday school teacher to become one of the largest figures in American History.
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray praised an unsung hero – 15-year-old Claudette Colvin – who refused to give up her seat on a bus a few months before Rosa Parks.
Gray says her courage emboldened others, including Rosa Parks.
“If she had not done what she did. She would not have been arrested. There would have been no trial on December 5th, 1955. There would have been no mass meeting at Hope Street Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King would not have been introduced to the city, the county, the nation, and the world on that date and the whole civil rights movement may have been different, but for one 15 year old girl,” said Gray.
“I know that those of us who are beneficiaries of the movement owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” said Rep. Terri Sewell.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange called it a day of celebration and remembrance.