After visiting Tessie McNamara's memorial in Lyndhurst, New Jersey (previous post), we drove to Newark to visit a landmark honoring Rosa Parks that was unveiled on February 4, 2014, in the Essex Country Courthouse Complex. The sculptor, Jay Warren, depicted Parks SITTING on a replicated of a bus seat that she had refused to vacate on December 1, 1955, upon the bus driver's order, for a white man. Her words—”You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right" are inscribed in raised script on the back of the seat. She is represented wearing a brimless hat, glasses, a cloth coat over her dress, laced shoes, and her hands on her purse on her lap. Behind me in the image is an arch with the words: Rosa Parks Plaza.
Not surprisingly Rosa Parks has been honored in a myriad of ways. Honorary doctorates and awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal, were bestowed on her. Schools, parks, buildings, bus stations, transportation centers, streets and highways, a museum and a library, and an asteroid were named for her. Either her birthday (February 4) or the day that she was arrested (December 1) are commemorated in several American states.
The first statue representing Rosa Parks was unveiled at the opening of the Rosa Parks Museum on the campus of Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama ,on December 1, 2000, 45 years after her historic arrest. The sculptor, Erik Blome, depicted his life-size bronze statue of Rosa Parks sitting on a bus seat. Her head is turned, looking to her left, large glasses frame her eyes and a slight smile is on her lips. His design, Blome, said, was to "invoke a feeling of determination and a presence . . . Her happiness showing in the knowledge that she is doing right." Blome intended for viewers to sit in the empty seat next to Rosa Parks. (see left image below).
In 2009, a second casting of Blome's Rosa Parks statue was unveiled in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit facility's new Rosa Parks Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Behind her statue, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.—"until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream"—are inscribed in a black granite wall with a cascading waterfall.(left image). That same year, sculptor Pete Helzer's statue depicting a sitting Rosa Parks clutching her hands in her purseless lap was unveiled at the renamed Rosa Parks Bus Station in Eugene, Oregon (right image.) Helzer's depiction of Parks without glasses and her hair on the top of her head is similar to the Black Canadian sculptor and painter Artis Lane's 1991 large bust of Rosa Parks that is currently on display in President Biden's Oval Office.
In 2010, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a very different vision of Rosa Parks—STANDING in front of a bus seat on a black marble pedestal—was unveiled at the entrance of Rosa Parks Circle, (a park with an ice skating rink designed by Maya Lin that had opened in 2000). In a 2020 interview, 90-year-old Armond Robinson, a Black man who was 26-years-old in 1955, proudly recalled that as a member of
the community relations board he had "approached, initiated, requested, started the action to put it there.” The sculptor Ed Dwight, whose first career had been as the first Black astronaut, explained why he depicted Rosa Parks standing: “Most of the images I’ve seen of her show her sitting down, this very pitiful woman in a seat . . .I wanted people to remember her as a kind of monumental woman.” (second left image)
The next year, 2011, sculptor Anthony
Frudakis' standing bronze statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled at a bus station in Flint,
Michigan (second right image). A third casting of Blome's seated statue was unveiled in Lafayette, Louisiana. In 2013, sculptor Eugene Daub and co-designer Rob Firmin almost 9' tall statue of Rosa Parks seated on a rock-like formation was
unveiled in the U.S. Capitol (fourth left image). Two more seated statues of Parks were unveiled in 2018. One in San Bernardino, California, in the Rosa Parks Memorial Building. Patrick Jewett, a Black sculptor who initiated the project, depicted Parks sitting on a bench, her purse tucked under her right arm, and her fists clenched (middle image).
The other is on the campus of Georga Tech, Atlanta Georgia. The sculptor, Martin Dawe, created "Continuing the Conversation"— two statues—Rosa Parks at the age of 42 when she refused to move and at the age of 92 when she died —sitting across from each other., and an empty seat for visitors is positioned beside them (below right.)
The most recent statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled in 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama..Created by Clydetta Fulmer, who depicted Parks with an unwavering gaze and slight smile, the bronze statue measures 5'3" tall, as was Rosa Parks, plus 2" for the heels on her shoes. The statue
stands on the sidewalk at the end of
Dexter Avenue about 30' from where Rosa Parks boarded the bus (left image).
So, what do you think—a sitting or a standing Rosa Parks, ground level or up high or any other comments?