Courage takes a seat in Montgomery

Family Travel Friday


Destination: Montgomery, Alabama

Book: Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds

Alabama State Capitol

Alabama State Capitol

By Jennifer Close

On December 1, 1955 one moment changed everything.

Back of the Bus is a story about Rosa Park’s confrontation on a segregated bus told from the point of view of a young child. The child is sitting in the back of the bus with his mom. He plays with his tiger’s eye marble, watching it roll back and forth, with the innocence of a child. Suddenly, he realizes that something is wrong. The bus isn’t moving and people around him are getting angry but he isn’t sure why.

Rosa Parks Picture

Rosa Parks on bus

Rosa Parks is asked to move to the back of the bus but she refuses. The bus driver refuses to move the bus and he calls the police. When the police arrive, Rosa Parks is led away in handcuffs.

The child watches Rosa Parks as she refuses to move.

“But she’s sittin’ right there, her eyes all fierce like a lightnin’ storm, like maybe she does belong up there. And I start thinkin’ maybe she does too.”

Dialogue like that coupled with beautiful illustrations help to tell the story of Rosa Parks and her defiant stand. The cover illustration caught my eye first and I flipped through the entire book just looking at the illustrations before realizing that I hadn’t read a single word. After going back to the first page and reading the book, I knew that I would have to add it to my children’s library.

As the child watches the situation unfold, he wants to know what is wrong but his mom tells him not to worry because it will all be forgotten tomorrow. The child senses that the event will not be forgotten and we also know that it isn’t forgotten. This moment in history is still studied in schools around the nation.

Montgomery, Alabama has many opportunities to help your children learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. Read this story before visiting the Rosa Parks Library & Museum and Children’s Wing. The children’s wing takes visitors back in time to share background on segregation and slavery in America. Learn about the Freedom Rides story at the museum located at the historic Greyhound Bus Station.

In addition to learning more about the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama, there are lots of family friendly activities. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents world-class plays that both children and adults will enjoy. Country music lovers will want to plan a visit to the Hank William’s Memorial and Museum and the kids will enjoy the Montgomery Zoo.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

Much Ado About Nothing,Alabama Shakespeare Festival

We are planning a weekend getaway to Montgomery this summer so in preparation for our trip we read this book together. My daughter sat wide-eyed having a hard time understanding why Ms. Parks was arrested for sitting on the bus and my son, who is a little older, wanted to know why so many people cared where she sat. A visit to the Rosa Parks children’s wing is definitely on the itinerary to help them understand more about segregation and this part of American history.

Jennifer and family

Jennifer and family

Jennifer Close is a regular Contributor to A Traveler’s Library,on Family Travel Friday once a month. She shares her knowledge of children’s literature and experiences with family travel. You can follow her family’s travels at Two Kids and a Map.

Photos used here are from Flickr, used with a Creative Commons license. Please click on the photo to learn more about the photographer.

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Have you traveled with children to sites with history that might be difficult to explain? Please share. Let’s talk.

Jennifer and her family travel near and far to find adventure around every corner.  She blogs about her travels at Two Kids and a Map and shares her adventures in Pensacola at Pensacola with Kids.

Jennifer Close – who has written posts on A Traveler's Library.


6 thoughts on “Courage takes a seat in Montgomery

  1. I read Black Like Me as a teenager and now plan to re-read it (an inspiring true story of a middle class white man who medically darkens his skin and lives in the southern states to understand the difference with how he is treated both by black and white people as a white man and as a black man). Even today I think there is a lot of distrust between races though thank goodness that things have taken some strides forward from the bravery of folks like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Mark. I remember reading excerpts of that book in high school but I am going to have to pick it up and read it.

  2. Oh, how nice! I love these kind of exhibitions that explain things (that I couldn’t explain so well) in a language that fits children and has some kind of an effect on their emotions. I really like the bus idea.

    1. I agree! Books are such a wonderful way to open up conversations between parent and child. I am amazed at the things that my son picks up when he is reading and am thankful that he feels like he can come to me with his many questions.

    1. @WanderingEds – Montgomery is just a few hours north of me and it is one of those places that we haven’t spent a lot of time exploring. I am looking forward to visiting this summer. The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is amazing and has first rate performances. It is something not to be missed if you are in the area.

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