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Byline: Cassandra Spratling
MONTGOMERY, Ala. _ By most accounts it was a dreary day in December. Cloudy and overcast. Chilly by Alabama standards. Like now, a lot of people's minds had begun to focus on the coming Christmas holiday.
Earlier that day, a soft-spoken seamstress named Rosa Parks lunched with a friend, Fred Gray, an attorney whose downtown office was within a short walking distance of the Montgomery Fair Department Store where she worked.
Gray had grown up in Montgomery, determined to be a lawyer. But when it came time for him to go to law school he had to leave his home state. Back then, in 1951, no school of law in Alabama admitted black people.
Injustices like that gnawed at Gray and Parks. They used to talk about it while they ate lunch. Especially the situation on the buses where blacks came face-to-face with discrimination every day.
The front rows were reserved for whites. Blacks had to sit in the back in the colored section.
A section of seats in the middle was open to the driver's discretion. Blacks could sit there, but if whites got on, they were entitled to those seats. That's where Rosa Parks would sit later that day after she'd gotten off work _ in the first row behind the white section.
By the time the bus picked up a few more passengers, the white section had filled up.
"Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats," the bus driver told Parks and three other blacks.
The others moved.
Not Rosa Parks. Not this time.
She couldn't see how standing so a white man could sit down would make it light on her.
She continued to sit.
Her simple act of civil disobedience _ sitting _ set in motion a movement that would eventually end legalized racial segregation throughout the South.
But for that act on that day, Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested.
Forty-five years later, this Friday, Dec. 1, 2000, a beautiful new museum and library will open at the site where Parks was taken off the bus.
It's called the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. It is a tribute to her quiet courage and a monument to the beginning of the civil rights movement and the people, well-known and little-known, who made it happen.
Officials at Troy State University Montgomery, which conceived and built the modern red-brick facility, also hope it will serve to inspire others to succeed _ particularly its 3,100 students and the thousands of others who they believe will visit to learn about and celebrate the people who made the Montgomery Bus Boycott a model for nonviolent social change throughout the world.
"Our university is a nontraditional institute which serves a very special group of adults," says Troy State President Cameron Martindale. "We have one of the most diverse student populations in the southeast." …