On Jaunary 31, 2003
, the Henry Ford Museum
in Dearborn, Michigan
unveiled the restored city bus in which Montgomery, Alabama
resident Rosa Parks
became a hero in the civil rights movement
when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955
. The Ford museum had purchased the bus in an October, 2001
internet auction at a price of $427,919 from Montgomery residents Vivian and Donnie Williams. Little more than a rusted shell, the bus had been sitting abandoned in an Alabama
field for 30 years, where it had been used as a toolshed by its owners and as target practice by local gun nuts. The bus was restored to its original condition in autumn, 2002
by a a team that builds concept cars and automotive prototypes, and will be part of the museum's permanent exhibits.
Before the bus when up for auction, a painstaking research process was undertaken to authenticate it as the actual bus Rosa Parks rode on. When the Montgomery City Bus Lines Company retired bus #2857 in the early 1970s, they sold it to Roy H. Summerford of Montgomery (Vivian Williams' father). When Summerford purchased the bus he was told by the bus company that it was the Rosa Parks bus, but when his daughter and son-in-law decided to sell it, they had no documentation. Their internet auction house examined the bus company records and contacted bus company employees, and finally located the a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott that had been kept by the former bus station manager, Charles Homer Cummings. In the scrapbook, next to the articles describing the arrest of Rosa Parks, Cummings had written "#2857" and "Blake/#2857." James Blake was the bus driver who had Rosa Parks arrested. The Ford museum deemed this evidence satisfactory proof that the bus was authentic.
For more information, visit http://www.hfmgv.org/