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US lawmakers push for federal holiday honoring Rosa Parks on the anniversary of her arrest

By Rikki Klaus, CNN

(CNN) — On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a city bus after work in Montgomery, Alabama, and sat down.

As the bus filled with passengers, the driver demanded the 42-year-old seamstress move further back into the segregated Black section of the bus so a White man could have her seat.

Parks famously refused.

She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. But that bold decision is widely credited with launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ultimately the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

This week, members of the Congressional Black Caucus marked the 68th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest by urging Congress to support a bill that would declare December 1, “Rosa Parks Day,” a federal holiday.

“This is not just about Black history. It’s about American history,” said Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell at a news conference Wednesday.

Sewell, a Democrat, introduced H.R. 308 which would establish the federal holiday, in January. The bill is backed by 31 co-sponsors, all of whom are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I know that all of us, this whole nation, has benefited from the courage and bravery of this one woman,” Sewell said.

The proposed holiday, Sewell added, would ensure Parks’ sacrifice is remembered. It would also establish the first federal holiday honoring a woman, according to the lawmakers.

“By simply refusing to give up her seat, Rosa Parks stood up for the values that this nation holds dear. With her quiet, dignified courage, she took a stand against a city steeped in segregation, and in doing so, she sparked the beginning of a movement that changed the very fabric of our nation,” she said.

Parks’ defiance sparked the 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was organized by Martin Luther King Jr. The nonviolent mass protest ended with the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.

“Rosa Parks is a martyr for equality, an icon to all, a crusader for justice. And truly, she was a phenomenal Black woman whose legacy should be revered as a hero in American history books and well beyond our borders,” Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty said at the news conference.

“It is past time to give Rosa Parks the national recognition she deserves.”

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said the bill is important, particularly amid what he described as “the rise in efforts to erase and rewrite history – Black history.”

“That is why it’s important for us to reclaim our history, to honor our history, to promote our history,” he said.

Sewell said she wants both Republicans and Democrats to back the bill. She said she hopes personal discussions with colleagues and speaking on the House floor about the significance of Rosa Parks Day will help move the legislation forward.

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