Rosa Parks' Bus
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery City bus on her way home from work. As the bus filled and a white man entered in need of a seat, Miss Parks quietly refused. News of this incident spread quickly and led to a city-wide bus boycott led by a young Martin Luther King, Jr. This courageous action of one woman on a bus helped spark the modern American civil rights movement.
Decades later, that same bus was found lying unprotected and deteriorating in a field. When the Henry Ford Museum got hold of it, it was severely rusted, windows were broken or missing, and the seats and engine had been removed. Active corrosion and biological decay were affecting the major structural components of the bus, and large-scale treatments were needed to save as much of the original bus as possible before irreversible damage occurred.
In 2002, Save America's Treasures awarded the Henry Ford Museum a $205,000 federal challenge grant to restore this iconic piece of history and return it to its 1955 physical appearance.
In every way, the goals for the project have been realized. The restored bus now has the structural integrity to accommodate the rigors of visitors – often thousands a day – who may actually board the bus and participate in ongoing public presentations. The restored bus also tells one of America's greatest stories about one of its most revered heroes, and is especially relevant to Michigan audiences since Rosa Parks made Detroit her adopted home from 1957 until her death in 2005.