Boycott walkers


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

“A pebble cast in the segregated waters of Montgomery, Alabama, created a human rights tidal wave that changed America . . . And it all started on a bus.”
Fred Gray, attorney for Browder v. Gayle, which affirmed that racial segregation of public buses was unconstitutional

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. She wasn’t the first to challenge segregation laws, but this time was different. Parks’ resistance spread through a community that was tired of enduring years of insult and humiliation. For more than a year, in the face of violence and intimidation, 50,000 black citizens forced a segregated bus system to open its doors to equality. The city of Montgomery gave birth to America’s modern civil rights era, and a young preacher emerged as a symbol of international significance.

381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story offers a gripping account of the men and women whose non-violent approach to political and social change matured into a weapon of equality for all. Based on an exhibition created by Troy University Rosa Parks Library and Museum and dedicated to the memory of Rosa Parks, 381 Days has been made possible through the generous support of AARP.

This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of AARP.

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Exhibition specifications


Photography, political cartoons, illustrations, text, audiovisual

Size 3,500 square feet (325 square meters)
Category History & Culture
SITES Contacts

Minnie Russell (Scheduling)
Marquette Folley (Content)

Toured Through April 2010

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Tour itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
12/3/05 1/14/06 Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, AL Booked
2/4/2006 4/16/2006 State Black Archives Research Center, Normal, AL Booked
5/6/06 7/16/06 Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit, MI Booked
8/5/06 10/15/06 Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg Counties, Charlotte, NC Booked
11/4/06 1/16/07 Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, WA Booked
2/3/07 3/20/07 DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, IL Booked
8/4/07 10/14/07 Ritz Theater & LaVilla Museum, Jacksonville, FL Booked
11/3/07 1/13/08 African American Museum, Dallas, TX Booked
2/2/08 4/13/08 National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN Booked
5/3/08 7/13/08 Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Evansville, IN Booked
8/2/08 10/12/08 American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, MO Booked
11/1/08 1/11/09 Columbus Public Library, Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System Booked
1/31/09 4/12/09 Stearns History Museum, St. Cloud, MN Booked
5/2/09 7/12/09 National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, OH Booked
9/5/09 1/3/10 Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History, Baltimore, MD Booked
1/30/10 4/11/10 Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL Reserved

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Related publications

381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story
Exhibition Brochure

An essay by Charles E. Cobb Jr. on the significance of the Montgomery bus boycott is complemented by period photographs, quotations from key figures in the boycott, and a timeline of notable dates in civil rights history.

Download Exhibitition Brochure


Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching

Scheduled for release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board, this book provides lessons and articles on how to go beyond a heroes approach to teaching about the civil rights movement. Included are interactive, interdisciplinary lessons, readings, writings, photographs, graphics and interviews. Co-published by Teaching for Change and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC). Foreword by Congressman John Lewis, $25.00.

381 Days exhibition brochure


Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching


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Smithsonian Marks 50th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
With New Traveling Exhibition

Media only: Jennifer Schommer (202) 633-3121
Muriel Cooper (202) 434-2597

381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story, a four-year traveling exhibit, commemorates the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest and the bus boycott that followed. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the Troy University Rosa Parks Library and Museum, and generously underwritten by AARP, the exhibit explores these crucial, historic events, which ignited the national Civil Rights Movement. 381 Days, dedicated to the indelible spirit and memory of Mrs. Parks (1913-2005), premieres at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on Dec. 2, with an opening reception on Dec. 1, also at the Capitol.

Parks’ arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, the catalyst for Montgomery’s citizens to take action, is only a fraction of the story. 381 Days examines the contributions and dedication of Montgomery’s black community, which made the boycott successful. The exhibition is a multidimensional collage of photographs, quotes and historical texts that bring this story to life and convey the dynamic energy of the movement.

“Rosa Parks’ extraordinary act was a profound turning point in the civil rights movement,” stated Anna Cohn, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). “We are extremely proud to share this American story of the courageous people of Montgomery who forced a segregated bus system to open its doors to equality.”

Four days after Parks’ arrest, 50,000 people united for a one-day boycott of city buses. Following its massive success, organizers formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), electing a young Martin Luther King Jr. as its president, and devised a strategy of grassroots organization and legal challenges that eventually broke the city’s ability to maintain segregated buses after 380 more days of the boycott.

During the boycott, a group of attorneys led by Fred Gray attacked the practice of segregation in public transit, recruiting four women as plaintiffs who, like Parks, had been arrested or harassed for refusing to give up their bus seats. Browder v. Gayle claimed that state and city segregation ordinances denied the plaintiffs equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment. In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Montgomery’s segregated bus seating unconstitutional. The boycott ended once the ruling took effect.

381 Days also looks at the impact of the boycott’s success across the country and around the world. As the first major victory against legalized segregation, the strategies used in Montgomery were adapted by a new generation of activists dedicated to nonviolent protest.

AARP will honor the principals of the Browder v. Gayle case—Fred Gray, Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald and Mary Louise Smith—and the founding members of the MIA at the Dec. 1 opening reception.

“AARP proudly honors the individuals who confronted our government, the body tasked with upholding our constitution, with a simple request: ‘Protect and treat all U.S. citizens equally under the law,’” said AARP President Marie Smith. “Their acts of courage sparked a movement that changed the nation. We acknowledge them and present this exhibit to continue telling the story.”

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people over the age of 50 have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. The organization produces AARP The Magazine; AARP Bulletin; AARP Segunda Juventud; NRTA Live & Learn; and a web site, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors and sponsors.

Situated on the historic site of Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum was built in tribute to both Parks and the civil rights movement in Montgomery. The museum is committed to educating audiences about the boycott and its continued effect on society.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science, and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For exhibition description and tour schedules, visit

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