Thousands pay final respects to Rosa Parks in Detroit
Rosa Parks, the unassuming seamstress whose small act of defiance on a city bus 50 years ago helped spark the modern civil rights movement, was to be lain to rest today in Detroit after a lavish funeral service attended by dignitaries and thousands of others.
Beginning at dawn, people began lining up around the cavernous Greater Grace Temple, in Mrs. Park's adopted hometown, and the line still wrapped around two blocks as the services got under way.
"The world knows of Rosa Parks because of a simple single act of dignity and courage that struck a lethal blow to the foundations of legal bigotry," former President Bill Clinton, the first of many featured speakers, said at the service.
When Mrs. Parks, a seamstress in Montgomery, Ala., refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus, "in a region where gentlemen are supposed to give up their seats for ladies," he said, "she was just taking the next step on her own road to freedom."
In doing so, Mr. Clinton said, she "ignited the most significant social movement in modern American history."
Mr. Clinton noted that Mrs. Parks was a petite woman, and said it brought to his mind Abraham Lincoln's remark upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
"So this is the little lady who started the great war," Mr. Clinton quoted Mr. Lincoln as saying.
"This time the war was fought by Martin Luther King's rules, civil disobedience and peaceful resistance," Mr. Clinton said. "But a war nonetheless for one America in which the law of the land means the same thing for everybody."
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