Saving the “Rosa Parks” bus

Museums often showcase artifacts that represent significant technological advances as symbols of our scientific progress. Cultural innovation, however, is more difficult to convey. In our quest to spotlight social change, curators at The Henry Ford search for objects that embody some of America’s most compelling cultural movements.

On December 1, 1955, African-American seamstress Rosa Parks was arrested for failing to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white man, breaking existing segregation laws. Many believe this act sparked the Civil Rights movement. When the opportunity arose, our staff recognized that the Rosa Parks bus would be an extraordinary addition to the museum—though it would be a long journey to acquire and restore it…

Montgomery bus station manager Charles H. Cummings had maintained a scrapbook of newspaper articles during the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott. Next to articles describing the arrest of Rosa Parks, he wrote “#2857” and “Blake/#2857.” James Blake was the bus driver who had Rosa Parks arrested. The son and wife of Mr. Cummings, now deceased, confirm that he jotted down the bus number because he felt the events were so important.

Often, as in this case, historical truth is not officially recorded, but is passed along in private memoirs and oral tradition.

Never forget. Never relent!