Montgomery, Ala — It was a cold evening 45 years ago Friday when a Montgomery city bus stopped in front of the Empire Theater. The driver got up and told black seamstress Rosa Parks she would have to give up her seat for white passengers.
That event which touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and began the modern civil rights movement is recreated inside a new museum honoring Parks. The museum opens today on the site of the old theater.
Parks, now 87, will be in Montgomery today when Troy State University Montgomery dedicates the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.
Inside the museum, visitors will get a chance to see and feel a little of what segregated Montgomery was like 45 years ago. The highlight of the museum is a bus that was used in Montgomery at the time of Parks' arrest.
Looking in the bus windows, visitors will see a video that recreates the famous conversation between Parks and the driver.
"Are you going to stand up," the driver asked.
"No," Park answered.
"Well by God I'm going to have you arrested," the driver said.
"You may do that," Parks responded.
Community leaders angered about her arrest launched a boycott of Montgomery buses on Dec. 5, 1955. The protest lasted a year, lifted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence and resulted in a Supreme Court ruling integrating public transportation.
The university had originally planned to put a parking lot at the site but changed its plans. The museum was created with private donations and a $1 million grant from the U.S. Transportation Department.
The museum includes videos, letters, photos and newspaper articles about the boycott. There are several busts and statues of Parks, including a sculpture of her sitting on a bus seat. There is also room on the seat for visitors to sit down and have their photo taken.