It’s the first and people love doing new things on the first. In 1909, the first Christmas club opened in Pennsylvania. In the same year, Degania Alef – the first Israeli kibbutz – was started on Dec. 1 by a handful of Russian emigres.
In 1919 in Britain, Lady Nancy Astor was sworn in on the first as the first woman to serve as a member of Parliament. (She was actually the second elected, but the first to take a seat.) In 1959, we got the first ever color photograph of the earth from outer space. Can’t find it, so here’s an early one from the Apollo 8 mission in 1968:
But this day is mostly about Rosa Parks. Her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery AL city bus wasn’t planned for the first day of December – it just happened that way.
Not only were city buses segregated, but they were segregated in detail. Front seats were for whites, rear seats for African-Americans, seats in between usable by both, separation depending on how crowded the bus was. Drivers could move the ‘Colored’ sign at any time to make more room for whites.
Rosa Parks was sitting where it was permitted, but as the bus began to fill, the driver stopped and moved the ‘Colored’ sign to the row just behind her. For years, the story was that she was so tired from working she just didn’t want to stand. She later said she wasn’t any more tired than usual, just that ‘the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’
The Montgomery bus boycott began the next day and lasted 381 days. The city was ready to agree to a settlement almost immediately, but the bus company refused to change its rules. That company, btw, National City Lines, was a story in itself, in and out of court since the 30’s for conspiring to monopolize transit lines, conspiring to help GM monopolize bus production, etc.
The boycott didn’t end until the Supreme Court ruled against bus segregation the following year, Rosa Parks lost her job and in 1957 moved to Detroit. The actual bus involved is in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and can be seen here.