This is the biography of a bus. #2857. Why a bus and why this bus? It’s thought to be the one Rosa Parks rode when she refused to move so a white man could sit. Her arrest set off the Civil Rights Movement. It happened December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, AL.
ROSA’S BUS: The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Steven Walker, Calkins Creek, 2010.
Readers hear the jingle of coins as bus riders climb aboard #2857 and pay their fare. The coins jingle alike. But the sameness ends here. Black bus riders must get off and hurry the length of the bus to the back door where they board and sit behind a moveable sign marked “Colored.” A refrain tells readers, surely protesting by this point, “That’s just the way things were.”
As the bus rolls toward its date with destiny, a bit of history is provided so young readers get a sense of the time and how events developed. This is a gentle way to introduce the civil rights movement to young readers without giving them nightmares over the brutal aspects of this battle against Jim Crow laws.
The bus is replicated in different ways in a number of civil rights displays and museums, including the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery. #2857 is much more than a replica. It’s considered to be the actual bus and has been restored as it was when Rosa Parks rode it, right down to the Alabama red clay on the wheels. On permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Rosa’s bus is a silent witness to one woman’s courage.
Author Jo Kittinger was born the year the Montgomery bus protest began. She grew up in public schools in the South during this turbulent time. Illustrator Steven Walker is a fine artist whose paintings have been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As a team, they bring Rosa’s bus to the attention of young readers and remind all of us that “that’s just the way things were” is never a good reason for disrespecting others.