VIA and SAAACAM hosting interactive exhibit highlighting transit’s role in Civil Rights struggle

VIA Metropolitan Transit will offer fare-free service on Wednesday, December 1, in observance of Rosa Parks Day.

VIA joins transit agencies and cities nationwide in designating a day of remembrance for Parks, who on Dec. 1, 1955, was arrested when she refused to give up her bus seat to make room for a white passenger. Her bravery inspired civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to organize a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which lasted several months and was successful in efforts to desegregate U.S. public transportation.

The VIA Board of Trustees approved a resolution in 2019 to observe and commemorate her contributions and the role of transit in the American Civil Rights movement each December. This year, customers can ride fare free on Wednesday, December 1—the 66th anniversary of Parks’ protest. VIA buses and vans will also keep their headlights on throughout the day to honor Parks’ memory.

The complimentary service extends to all bus, VIAtrans, and VIA Link trips. VIAtrans customers must book their trips in advance, per usual. All COVID-19 health and safety precautions will remain in place, including masks required for employees and non-exempt passengers.

As part of this year’s celebration, VIA and the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) have partnered to highlight the role of public transportation in the modern Civil Rights movement, including milestones reached here in San Antonio.

The partnership supports the museum’s mission to collect, preserve, and share the cultural heritage of African Americans in the San Antonio region. It includes a new, interactive installation that focuses on local and national historic events, and highlights VIA’s Rosa Parks Seat Program. The pieces are on display through June 2023 at the museum’s La Villita location, 218 S. Presa St.

VIA’s Rosa Parks Seat Program debuted in 2005 and is designed to educate and engage riders about the history and contributions of the civil rights icon. An engraved seat dedicated to Parks’ memory is placed in each of VIA’s 500-plus buses. The bright yellow seat is installed on the front right side of each bus, below a sign that tells of Parks’ Dec. 1, 1955, protest aboard a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

The SAAACAM display includes a free-standing Rosa Parks seat next to a timeline of historic transportation-related moments and a digital kiosk that highlights SAAACAM’s work in the community.

“Understanding the role of transit in civil rights history helps us appreciate the journey of those who fought to make public services accessible to everyone, and moved us closer to achieving equity through mobility,” VIA President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt said. “VIA is proud to support SAAACAM and join in its mission with this interactive display that shines a light on an important part of our shared history.”

Visitors can plan a trip to SAAACAM on VIA, using the convenient online VIA Trip Planner, or by calling the Go Line at 210-362-2020. For museum hours and programs, visit Admission to the museum is free. Donations are welcome and memberships are available, starting at just $15 a month.