For the seventh consecutive year, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) will keep a seat open on every bus in the fleet from December 1 through December 3, to honor the life of Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks and recognize her contribution to the ongoing fight for equality and equity for all

Each reserved seat will include a red rose and a special placard that features Parks’ photo and a message about her courageous act. The signs read, “On the anniversary of her courageous act, MCTS salutes Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and all who made a seat available for everyone.”

On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and fined. Four days later, in response to the arrest, a year-long bus boycott began. It ended when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public transportation was illegal.

“With this tribute, we honor not only Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience in 1955, but also Claudette Colvin and all whose courageous actions led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation,” said Denise Wandke, Interim Managing Director for MCTS.

The bus boycott succeeded and lasted for nearly 381 days, which devastated the transportation system in Montgomery and captured the world’s attention. It also led to the Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation on public transportation systems unconstitutional.

“Honoring Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and the civil rights heroes that came before us is one of my favorite annual traditions. These powerful individuals helped pave the way for us to embark on the journey to achieve race and health equity,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “We stand on the shoulders of these giants and owe it to the next generation of leaders to pass on the tradition. I encourage Milwaukee County high school seniors to apply for the MCTS Rosa Parks Tribute Scholarship and embark on their own journey to help guide our community to even greater heights.”

In 2019, Milwaukee County became the first jurisdiction in the nation to declare racism a public health crisis. Since then, more than 80 communities have followed suit.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” – Rosa Parks

MCTS has invited high school seniors who live and attend school in Milwaukee County and who plan to attend a trade school, college, or university to submit a short essay inspired by Parks’ quote, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”

Entries must be submitted by January 6, 2023, to be considered. Three winners, who will each receive $1,000 towards their higher education, will be announced on February 3, 2023, the day before Parks’ birthday. Details about the scholarship can be found at