Montgomery Closes Out 65th Anniversary Commemoration of Bus Boycott With Week of Celebrations

Civil Rights attorney Fred Gray speaks on stage during a ceremony on October 26, 2021, in which the city of Montgomery renamed Jeff Davis Avenue to Fred D. Gray Avenue. Image: Julie Bennett/Getty Images

Montgomery will forever be known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. And through a concerted year-long campaign that kicked off in December of 2020, people from across the globe have been able to celebrate and commemorate the life-changing work that took place there during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.

“Montgomery is at a pivotal moment,” says Ashley Jernigan, Executive Director for Destination Montgomery. “We are helping to shape the future by embracing our past.” 

Over the last year Montgomery has taken every opportunity to “highlight the living legends and figures of the Bus Boycott,” Jernigan adds. Key events include the renaming of Jeff Davis Ave, once designated in honor of a Confederate president, to Fred Gray Ave., in honor of the attorney who litigated the pivotal Browder vs. Gayle case. Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed also partnered with Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey to join the push to clear Claudette Colvin’s record and have her juvenile file expunged. Colvin refused to give her seat up on a Montgomery bus to a white woman at the age of 15. Today, she’s considered a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement. 

The 382-day commemoration is a partnership between the City of Montgomery, The Montgomery County Commission, The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery Improvement Association and over 20 local organizations dedicated to honoring the legacy of The Bus Boycott Movement. Jernigan shares that developing programming during COVID had its challenges, but it allowed the collaborative to “think outside the box.” Because indoor activities continue to be risky, the group came up with the idea to offer a self-guided driving tour of key locations pivotal to the boycott where people can learn about the level of organizing it took to pull off the momentous effort.

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“This past year has shown why Montgomery is the Civil Rights Capital of the Country,” Jernigan tells EBONY, “and that we are not finished.” From December 1-7, the city is honoring the legacy of those who dedicated their lives to equality and set off a revolution across the globe. The closing events of the 65th Anniversary commemorative year of the Montgomery Bus Boycott will include a host of activities in honor of Rosa Parks Day, celebrated on December 1, as well as services, art exhibits, a food giveaway, and curated programs. 

“We want visitors to come to Montgomery and learn why we are the Civil Rights Capital of the Nation!” Jernigan says emphatically. “Not only with The Montgomery Bus Boycott, but with the Freedom Rides, the Selma to Montgomery March and a host of other pivotal events that shaped the nation.”

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