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Morehouse Honors Rosa Parks with Oil Portrait, Vigil

By Rori Francis Blakeney

Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, joined an elite class of women on Nov. 17 when the College unveiled an oil portrait of her during the Howard Thurman Crown Forum. Painted by renowned Korean-born portrait artist Hoeun Chung, the portrait is a gift from Amos C. Brown Sr. ’64, pastor of San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church, in appreciation for her leadership and vision in the Civil Rights Movement.

Eleven other women have been honored with paintings, including Coretta Scott King, Kasturba Gandhi and Marian Wright Edelman.

“One of the most important lessons Ms. Parks’ life teaches us is that one person can make a difference,” said President Walter E. Massey ’58 in a statement to the College shortly after her death. “While our actions may never have the kind of national impact that hers did, we each can, in our own way, start a movement toward positive change by taking a stand for the important values and principles in which we believe.”

More than 140 students from the Atlanta University Center celebrated Parks’ life at a vigil on Nov. 1. The students gathered in front of the King Chapel to pay tribute to Parks through speeches, poetry and lighting candles. Morehouse students Basheer Jones and John White offered poetry.

“We wanted to show our love and respect for one of the freedom fighters of our lives,” said Dewey Fowler, Morehouse SGA president. “We wanted to pay our last respects, reflect on her life. She was the catalyst for change. She sat down, so we could stand up.”

Parks changed the course of American history by refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man on Dec. 1, 1955. Her decision sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system—the catalyst for the struggle for racial equality.

Parks died Oct. 24 at age 92. The honor the College will bestow is among many awards she has received posthumously, including lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

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