The buses that provided the public transportation in the 1950s in the town of Montgomery (Alabama), possibly like any or many other North American cities, had seats made of chromed iron tubing. The frame of these aligned benches, designed for two passengers, was at the same time a support for seated passengers and a place to hold for those who were standing or moving in the bus’s interior. This form of construction in curved and screwed iron tubing evokes the exemplary chair designs of modern Bauhausians and their contemporaries.
The iron frame was completed with a spring seat to cushion the rattle of the vehicle in motion. These seats, as well as their backs or backrests, were upholstered with a tough and dark skai type plastic.
The austere and functional seats of these buses became a symbol of status, as so many times had happened with other chairs in history. In this case the prohibition of the black population in using them when traveling with the collective buses.
Paradoxically, it was exercising its own seat function when suddenly this absurd prohibition was evident. Not using them as a podium to climb and proclaim, not tearing them from their place to rush them out of the vehicle to protest, but simply by sitting on them and refusing to yield them to a white traveler. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks staged what would be a new stage in the struggle for the civil rights of black Americans.
Although her action cost her to be expelled from the bus halfway through the trip and charged for a crime, which triggered a 382-day boycott against the public transportation company; the serene and brave Mrs. Parks did sit down, stand up.