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City of Montgomery and Maxwell AFB honor Rosa Parks' arrest anniversary

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The City of Montgomery and Maxwell AFB commemorated the 66th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott by dedicating a memorial to Rosa Parks Dec. 1, 2021.

The dedication took place outside the Troy University Rosa Parks Museum in downtown. The sculpture stands where she was arrested and Rosa Parks’ lawyer, Mr. Fred Gray helped dedicate the sculpture. 

It is a replica of the sculpture dedicated on Maxwell Air Force Base on 1 December 2020. The two sculptures reflect how Rosa Parks’ service on Maxwell inspired her actions in Montgomery, strengthening the base community partnerships and progressing Montgomery’s social justice.

“She was not tired, she was tired of giving in,” said Col. Eries Mentzer, 42nd Air Base Wing commander who reflected on the honor of serving in the Birthplace of the Civil

Rights Movement. “Tired of giving in to injustice and the systematic shielding of perpetrators. Her moral courage in that moment sparked a movement that changed Montgomery and our nation for the better. Mrs. Rosa Parks’ commitment to equality and inclusion for all, while risking her own personal safety and prosperity, continues to serve as an inspiration.”

Parks, who worked at Maxwell Field’s guest house in the 1940s, later credited her experience at the racially-integrated federal facilities and riding the integrated trollies on Maxwell with showing her a world without the discriminatory policies, known as Jim Crow laws that were common in the South.

“You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up,” said Parks in her memoirs. “It was an alternative to the ugly policies of Jim Crow.”

On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus in protest of segregated transportation in Montgomery. Her civil disobedience prompted a citywide bus boycott, a watershed event in the civil rights movement.

In 2020, on the 65th anniversary of Parks’ arrest, Air Force and Montgomery leaders honored Rosa Parks with a memorial designed by Montgomery native and Air Force Civilian Ian Mangum, serving with the 42nd Force Support Squadron, on Maxwell Air Force Base. At the memorial ceremony, Mayor Steven Reed and Col. Mentzer dedicated 382 days toward committed inclusion efforts between the city and the base.

Through this partnership, Maxwell AFB and the city of Montgomery aim to advance inclusion and remove barriers through a program called The Freedom to Serve.

During this period, Maxwell has engaged our community and mission partners.

“The strength of the bond between the Montgomery-area community and the Air Force is incredible,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, who attended the ceremony.  “The Rosa Parks sculptures and the Freedom to Serve initiative should remind us all of the importance of courage in the face of adversity, working together to remove barriers to service and success, and welcoming everyone.  We are better together.”

AETC and community civic leaders Virginia Whitfield and Lora McClendon collaborated with Maxwell on the sculptures with the support of Troy University, the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, the Air University Foundation, Air University Library, Alabama Power, and the 908th Airlift Wing.

Parks’ courage and conviction remain an inspiration and serve as a reminder of the responsibilities for all citizens to confront injustice, uphold constitution rights, and secure the Freedom to Serve. 

Beyond Maxwell and Montgomery, Parks’ legacy has served as an inspiration worldwide, and the Air Force is proud to consider her a part of the family.

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